Vayera - Service Links - Last Saturday's Sermon
Vayera - Lot's Hospitality Should Know Bounds
In our Tradition, Abraham is known for his hospitality: when the presence of the Divine comes to visit him in the form of three men, Abraham rushes out to greet them, feed them, welcome them in from the heat of the day. When the men go on to give their warning to Lot, he too offers them his hospitality, and something more: his protection. It seems that the men of Sodom want to "get to know the men" and Lot is not about to let that happen: "I have two daughters that are unmarried. Why not know them instead?"
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Vayera (continued)
Fortunately, the men intervene, and Lot's daughters are not  physically harmed. But I have to wonder what sort of psychological damage they might have suffered, to be offered up to the mob by their father, to be given the implicit message that the safety of their father's guests was more important than their lives. Perhaps this explains the end of the story, where the daughters see themselves merely as vessels of the continuation of humanity and conspire to have children by their father (thinking that they were the only people left in the world).
 
There is a reason why Abraham is praised for his hospitality, but not Lot. While the phrase "his hospitality knew no bounds" is nice as a platitude, our Tradition demands that there must be limits on all activities: we are all created in the image of God, and we must treat everyone accordingly. Imagine what message Lot could have sent to his daughters had he suggested a solution that honored their value as human beings.  
Lech Lecha - Post Traumatic Growth
There was a request for me to share my words from last Saturday's sermon. Here is a concise version:
 
God informs Abraham that his descendants
...shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years; but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth. (Genesis 15:13-14)
Imagine that you are Abraham, and you have received this prophesy: what might you do in response?  
 
Well, in any good novel or television or movie drama, you would immediately try to figure out a way to change their fate, because who wants to see their children suffer?
 
So what would have happened if, say, Abraham had given the stern command, whatever you do, don't go to another land?
 
Joseph would still have been sold into slavery in Egypt, and risen to power in Pharaoh's household. But when his brothers came to ask for food, he would have set them up with seven years worth of deliveries of victuals, and Jacob and the rest of the tribes would never have left the Land of Canaan. Over time, through progeny and marriages, they may have even managed to edge out the local tribes to fulfill God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the land would be their inheritance.
 
What wouldn't have happened is the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt. There would have been no cry out to the God of their ancestors, no plagues to prove God's power, no exodus from Egypt, no Sinai and no Torah.
 
Our slave experience led to what could be termed post traumatic growth. We suffered a national trauma and were transformed by it into something more.
 
As human beings, we place value based upon how much pain it has cost us. The bicycle bought by spending a summer collecting eggs and selling them at market is far more beloved to its owner than the bike that was received as a birthday gift. If children arrived without pain in pregnancy and childbirth, would we be as fiercely protective of them?
 
There is always going to be trauma in life. I am not saying that trauma is necessary for growth as human beings - it is possible to grow without the investment of suffering. But what I am suggesting is that when trauma is followed by growth, that growth should be viewed as a blessing from God.
 
And therefore Abraham chooses to accept the fate that his descendants will suffer because of the reward, the growth that will follow the trauma. 
Be safe, 

David
 
Rabbi David Cantor
Temple Beth Shalom
3635 Elm Ave
Long Beach, CA 90807
direct line:  (562) 726-4116
email: rabbi@tbslb.org