Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Parshas Vayera 5778

Why Were the People of Sodom Destroyed?

The Torah (Genesis 19:24-25) writes:
And the L-rd had rained down upon Sodom and Amorah brimstone and fire, from the L-rd, from the heavens. And He overturned these cities and the entire plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the growth of the ground.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 56b) tells us that G-d only punishes people only after warning them:
Rabbi Yosei says: With regard to every type of sorcery that is stated in the passage about sorcery, it is prohibited for a descendant of Noah to engage in it. This is derived from the verses: “When you come into the land that the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you one who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a warlock, or a charmer, or one who consults a necromancer and a sorcerer, or directs inquiries to the dead. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominations, the Lord your God is driving them out from before you” (Deuteronomy 18:9–12). Evidently, the Canaanites were punished for these practices; and since God would not have punished them for an action unless He first prohibited it, these practices are clearly prohibited to them.
The Torah also writes (Genesis 13:13):
Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked sinners against the LORD.
The Radak (ibid) explains:
The inhabitants of Sodom were evil and wicked. The word רעים describes their attitude to G’d, whereas the word חטאים describes their attitude to fellow human beings (non-residents.) They ignored all the seven Noachide laws, including idolatry, the other 6 laws dealing with inter-personal relations. The Torah, underlining the severity of these people’s wickedness, adds: מאד, “very much so.” They did not bother to conceal their evil deeds but carried them out in the open, brazenly.
However, why did they get punished for something that not everyone of them did? We find the answer in Sefer Ha-Ikarim (3:14):
Also a Noahite seeing another committing a robbery without preventing him is guilty of a capital crime. This is why all the inhabitants of Shechem deserved the penalty of death, because they saw Shechem committing a robbery and did not prosecute him, as Maimonides says in “Sefer Shofetim.”
We find similarly in the Rambam (Melachim 9:14):
.... It was for this reason all residents of the City of Shechem deserved to be executed. For Shechem kidnapped, and they saw and knew and failed to judge him. ....

How Many Commandments Were Given to Noachides?

The Rambam (Melachim 9:1) lists seven:
Regarding six things Adam, the First Man, was commanded: regarding foreign worship, and cursing God, and murder, and forbidden sexual relations, and theft, and [a justice system]. ... He added for Noah [the prohibition on eating] the limb of a live animal...
The Rambam (ibid 10:6) also adds two more:
According to the tradition Benei Noach are forbidden to breed cattle and to graft trees ...
The Rambam (ibid 10:7-8) also adds that circumcision was an extra commandment for the children of Abraham:
The circumcision – was only commanded to Avraham and his descendants as it states "You and your descendants after you, for generations" (Genesis 17, 9). This excludes the descendants of Yishmael, as it states "Because with Yitshak will be called your descendants." (Genesis 21, 12) – This excludes Esav for behold Yitzhak said to Yaakov "And the blessing of Avraham will be given to you, you and your descendants." (Genesis 28, 4) – It comes to teach us that he (Yaakov) only is the descendant of Avraham that upholds his righteous way and they (the descendants of Jacob) are obligated for circumcision. Our sages of blessed memory said that the children of Keturah who are the descendants of Avraham that came after Yishmael and Yitzhak – are obligated on circumcision. And because the children of Keturah are mixed together with the children of Yishmael, they are all obligated of [completing] circumcision by the eighth day. ...

The Location of Sodom

Interesting article in Archeology Today about the possibly location of Sodom as being in the delta of the Jordan rive, north of the Dead Sea