Each of the Patriarchs represents a different character trait we strive to emulate.
Avraham represents “Chesed” – “loving-kindness.” This manifests itself in performing selfless acts with a focus on helping others.
This week’s Torah portion, VaYera (Genesis 18:1 – 23:20) continues with the saga of Avraham’s life and introduces us to the people of Sodom. They were the exact opposite of Avraham. Avraham’s tent was open to strangers. In Sodom it was a crime to bring guests into ones home.
We are reminded in Psalm 89:3 that ultimately, Chesed, Loving-kindness is the primary attribute for the existence of the world “Olam Chesed Yibaneh.”
So it is no wonder that God decides to destroy the city of Sodom and everything it represents. Sodom is committed to a life that runs counter to God’s very purpose of Creation!
And we would assume that Avraham would be in agreement with God’s decision based on his innate attribute of Chesed.
Yet Avraham steps forward and seems to argue with God in an attempt to save the city. How can that be?
Sometimes we think we are doing Chesed, when in fact our act of kindness for another may simply be because we like the person who just had that baby, or we really enjoy making chicken soup and the family of the new mother needs it for their Shabbat meals.
The true act of Chesed is done when we can care about people who are NOT like us when the situation demands it.
The Sodomites were in effect the enemies of Avraham and God. Rather than rejoice in God’s decision to wipe out the city and its inhabitants, Avraham’s true act of Chesed was to pray to God that the Sodomites repent so they would not have to be destroyed.
In our world we are literally surrounded by enemies who want to physically destroy us. Whether they are Taliban terrorists, Iranians seeking do develop nuclear weapons, or Hamas terrorists digging tunnels under our borders.
In these trying times we need to retain our core attribute of Chesed that we inherited from our father Avraham. That does not mean we should love our enemies. We have an obligation to hate evil and eliminate it from the world – including terrorists as they target innocent civilians.
But we should be distraught over the fact that we are being forced to “neutralize” the enemy’s knife-wielding children. Like Avraham, we should pray that there are enough righteous individuals in the enemy’s society to cause the rest of them to do teshuva and repent of their evil ways.
The rest is up to God.