Rabbi Ron Symons on October 25, 2015
When is Enough Enough?
I had a moment this summer. I went to one of my favorite big box stores to buy some screws for a project. The middle-aged salesman helped me politely and then asked what type of drill I had. I told him that I have a regular drill. He clarified for me that I would need a hammer drill to install these screws since I was working with a concrete wall. I must have looked dismayed. I don’t have a hammer drill.
He said, “Let me explain. Trying to drill into a concrete wall with a regular drill is like trying to drive a Ferrari on ice. You will just spin your wheels.” I thanked him. He went on, “Trying to drill into a concrete wall with your drill would be like trying to explain Judaism to a Moslem.” My jaw dropped. He repeated it! I heard him right the first time.
This week’s Torah portion provides us with a role model of a person who had the inner strength to challenge injustice. When God informed Abraham that God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham refused to accept the verdict. So Abraham protested:
Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?
What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it?
Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike.
Far be it from You!
Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:23ff)
So I mustered my inner Abraham, “I want you to know that I know many Moslems who really understand Judaism.” He responded, “Oh, I didn’t mean to offend. You know what I mean.” “No, I don’t know what you mean and I find what you said to be offensive. All we need in this world is a little more tolerance, not bigotry.” I walked away.
I am not sure if I changed anything that day in aisle 6 in front of the screws. I choose not to report him to his supervisor for fear of what I assumed would be the residual anti-Semitic remark he might make to his buddies, “A Jew b*st**d got me fired today because I told him the truth about Moslems.” I still question if I didn’t do enough. I take a little comfort knowing that Abraham’s protestations did not succeed in saving Sodom and Gomorrah.
Elie Weisel teaches us:
One of the Just Men came to Sodom, determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically.
Then they stopped listening; he no longer even amused them. The killers went on killing, the wise kept silent, as if there were no Just Man in their midst.
One day a child, moved by compassion for the unfortunate teacher, approached him with these words: “Poor stranger, you shout, you scream, don’t you see that it is hopeless?”
“Yes, I see,” answered the Just Man. “Then why do you go on?” “I’ll tell you why. In the beginning, I thought I could change man. Today, I know I cannot. If I still shout today, if I still scream, it is to prevent man from ultimately changing me.” (Wiesel, Elie. One Generation After. NY: Schocken Books, 1982)
If we still shout today… we won’t be changed.
(Image from Wikipedia.)
(You can read the whole weekly portion Vayera in Genesis 18:1-22:4.)
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