As Jews, we love to argue. We may be surprised to see that this value even extends to arguing with the highest authority of all – with God.
We also have another relevant value: we believe it is important to judge others favourably and look for the good in people. So, when Abraham was told Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed, he knew that there was a lot of sin in those places.
Nonetheless, he argued for the good he believed must exist there and to save those people despite the actions of the majority.
He told God to save the city if there were even 10 righteous people there. God agreed to these conditions, but Abraham in the end had to acquiesce as he couldn’t even find 10. But can we really believe that? Can there be such a place that is so wholly evil?
It seems remarkable to think that these large cities would contain no good at all. Throughout history, we may point to examples where – even in times of great evil – there are some people who stand out, who are fighting against the tide.
So what are we to think of Sodom and Gomorrah?
I don’t believe there really were no good people there. Almost certainly, some of the people were not evil. So why was the city not saved?
When you are surrounded by evil – by sin – it isn’t good enough to just be good yourself. It becomes your duty to stand up against injustice and hate, to buck the trends around you, and do what you can to make a difference.
Being passive is not enough. If we are passive bystanders, our Torah teaches us we have failed. We must raise our voices against evil and take action.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is the senior rabbi of Reform Judaism
Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views podcast!