Va’yera – unnatural disasters

This is an action-packed Parsha. If ever there was a case for adults to consider re-reading the Torah after their bar/bat mitzvah, this would be it. Bible teachers do not teach everything to young children. Some of the plot would not be out of place in today’s offerings for sex and violence, except that the description is not explicit. The name Sodom lives on in the language of the educated, but in this Parsha, for the first time we are clearly given a choice of two ways of living. We can, like Lot, have a society run by the pursuit of money and the good life, but riddled with hatred of strangers, violence and sexual perversion, or we can live, like Avraham, in consultation with G-d, peacefully and justly, with sexuality controlled and sanctified (symbolised by the introduction of circumcision).

One of the joys of reading the Torah chapter by chapter is to find the parallels and differences as the stories develop. The flood of Noah’s time, when the rain began and did not stop, resembled a natural disaster, such as we see this week in New York and New Jersey. But the cities of Sodom and Gemora are destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. This unnatural disaster resembles a volcanic eruption, but there was no volcano. It is a partial destruction, a targeted killing. Like Noah, Lot becomes drunk following the disaster. In his drunkenness terrible things happen. Lot gets his just deserts. When his disguised Angel visitors are threatened by the entire city with gang male rape, Lot offers up his innocent daughters for the city to do ‘whatever they like’ to. Then, after his wife’s death his daughters sleep with their father in order to, as they believe, perpetuate the species. Two children are born from this incest, and their descendants are destined to be enemies of the Jewish people: Moav and Amon. We see that the Torah does not shy away from such accounts. The message is clear: that sexual morality is an important part of a wholesome society.

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