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It Is Unacceptable

Thursday, 6 November, 2014 - 8:00 am

There is a story told about a girl named Plitith who lived in a hostile and unfriendly town. The laws of this town included things like: one may not have any consideration for the poor, one may not offer hospitality to the passing stranger, selling food or water to a foreigner is forbidden.  Plitith was caught secretly given food to a stranger who was near starvation and was subsequently burned in public. Another young girl, caught feeding a starving beggar, was smeared with honey and placed upon the city wall. She died from the stings of the bees attracted to the honey.

The name of this town was Sodom. Pltith was Lot's daughter and Abraham's great niece.

Many people know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah; a region of depravity and moral decay. The only thing to salvage it was to overturn and destroy the entire region. Abraham pleaded with G-d to save it but could not find 10 righteous people in the region for whom to find merit for.

While the story is referred to as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in truth it included the cities of Admah, Zeboim and Bela (Bela/Zoar was saved due to Lot's request). We see that these cities were allied politically in last week’s Torah portion where it named their kings, "Bera the king of Sodom and with Birsha the king of Gomorrah, Shineab the king of Admah, and Shemeber the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar".

However, the story is known as the destruction of "Sodom and Gomorrah" and not the destruction of the four/five cities. Sodom and Gomorrah also received a bonus of brimstone and fire before being overturned (genesis 19 24-25). We may want to simply explain this as a technicality. Perhaps they were the larger cities or maybe they were the capital cities of the region.

There is a more practical explanation that can bring a meaningful and relevant message to us in the modern day. The cities of Shineab and Admah were not religious but they were kind and friendly. They hated G-d but loved their neighbors. On the other hand, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil to their fellow humans.

We see this by the names of their kings; Bera - he was twice evil, (Bet Raah) to Heaven and to people.  Birsha - he was elevated in wickedness (Rasha).  Shineab - he hated (Soneh) his Father (Av) in Heaven.  Shemeber - He made (Sum) wings (Ever) to fly and to spring and to rebel against the Holy One, blessed be He.

While lack of following G-d can bring us to lack of success or even to death, it will not obliterate everything. However, when the fabric of our society is destroyed, when we no longer take care of our neighbor, then total annihilation and destruction occur.

While rebelling against G-d is a sin, it pales in comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah is the story that must never be repeated. Lack of respect for your fellow man is not just wrong it is unacceptable and must be eradicated.

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