Shabbat Commentary

22/23 Oct: Vayera : Shabbat comes in 5:38 pm, ends 6:39 pm

Parashat Vayera – And She Cried Out 

‘And the Eternal said: Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous: I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which has come to Me…’ (Genesis 18:20-21) The nature of the sin of Sodom is not directly described in the text. A midrash (a creative rabbinic explanation) in Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer expounds upon the words ‘the cry of it ​, which has come to Me’, which is more precisely translated as ‘the cry of ​her ​ ’. The ‘her’ of the text appears, in a surface-level reading, to be referring to the cry of the city. However, the sages of this midrash read the ‘her’ as referring to a young woman in the city. They tell the story of a law in Sodom that banned extending aid to the poor. Pelotit, a daughter of Lot, was moved to provide food for a starving beggar. When the beggar did not die of starvation, the men of Sodom investigated his condition and revealed her charity. As a result, she was put to death by burning. It was Pelotit’s cry that reached the Divine, and caused the destruction of Sodom. The sin of Sodom was not only that individual transgressors treated one another with apathy or disdain, but that their mistreatment of one another was enshrined in the law, and that any act of compassion was met with capital punishment. It is an extreme example of a societal ill that we must all be aware of: that we should never assume that morality and ethics are dictated by the legal system, and rather that we should ensure that the legal system is dictated by morality and ethics.

Shabbat shalom, 

Rabbi Natasha






















October 17, 2021