Lech Lecha 5768
By: Miss Anne Gordon
Lekh Lekha: Proper Property
Why do bad things happen to good people? The age-old question, and for a change we need not ask it. Parshat Lekh Lekha introduces us to divine justice (and divine mercy) at their best—for it is in Parshat Lekh Lekha where we have the very beginning of the story of Sodom and Gemorrah, one of the comparatively few places were we see bad things happening to bad people, even when Avraham pleads to save the bad for the sake of the good therein.
On the face of it, that story is an odd one: God tells Avraham a bit of His master plan…in and of itself, that is unusual. Much of the time, humanity wonders whether God in fact has a plan, and people tend to be thrilled when they get a glimmer of a sense of what it might be. Avraham is told directly…more, God says that He could not put the plan into practice without informing Avraham! And then Avraham has the audacity—though perhaps many of us would as well—to take issue with God’s master plan. He doesn’t only argue, he debates, he cajoles, he negotiates, and in the end, he desists, for he is certain that he has won the day. How could there be fewer than 10 righteous people in
We should not be surprised, however, that God does put His plan into action. After all, He knows His customers.
The classical commentaries devote themselves to the nature and identity of
“Sheli sheli ve-shelkha shelkha, zo midat beinonit. Ve-yesh omrim, zo midat s’dom. Sheli shelakh ve-shelakh sheli, am ha-aretz. Sheli shelakh ve-shelakh shelakh, hasid. Sheli sheli ve-shelakh sheli, rasha.”
What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours is the trait of the average (or the normal). Some say, this is the trait of
So much of the creative innovation and oppressive tyranny of the twentieth century, nay, of all economic history, in what appears to be a jingle! Socialism, communism, fascism, capitalism.…Wickedness is obvious: one who considers the entirety of the world to be his own to the exclusion of everyone else is selfish in a way that is not to be countenanced. So too is piety: those who divest themselves even of that which is legitimately their own for the sake of others—they are not only righteous, exerting justice in the world, but pious. Going beyond their own boundaries, their own norms, for the sake of another’s well-being. Those who mix and match property, saying, what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine (quite possibly a hallmark of twentieth-century economic thought) are ignorant, or fool-hardy. Humanity does not function well with no sense of ownership…we may frown on materialism, but a sense of personal property would seem to be key to an individual’s well-being. Even the Gemara acknowledges that nice garments and a nice home engender a sense of tranquility and comfort. And indeed our norms are the Mishnah’s trait of the average: we pride ourselves on individual rights to property, and relish the idea that strong fences make good neighbors. We draw boundaries and we identify where we each stand. Good solid citizens…nothing wicked nor pious nor foolish…
Yet some call this trait the trait of
|Additional shiurim from this category can be found in:||Parshat Shavua (Lech Lecha)|
|Uploaded:||Sunday, March 9, 2008|