Two Minutes of Torah | Vayeira | Genesis 18:1–22:24

The Way of Welcome

The treatment accorded newcomers and strangers was then and may always be considered a touchstone of the community’s moral condition.

—Rabbi Gunther Plaut

Rabbi Plaut’s words stem from his commentary on the chief sin of Sodom, that city, with Gomorrah, destroyed in this week’s Torah portion. Rather than for some vague sexual transgression, Jewish tradition holds lack of hospitality to be the main cause of God’s condemnation and punishment of the towns. It stands in stark contrast to Abraham’s archetypal model of eminent hospitality at the portion’s start, when, despite recovering from a self-inflicted circumcision, Abraham awaits guests at the entrance of his tent at the heat of the day. Thus, this ancient and essential virtue, defining the difference between life and death in the parched landscape of the biblical era, speaks to us as a critical priority in Torah and in our tradition. Rabbi Plaut’s summary of rabbinic interpretations of Sodom’s sin extends this basic human need in time and space to encompass the current challenges of our nation in upholding its time-honored ideals.

– Rabbi Daniel Weiner

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