2 min read

What if ten should be found there?

What if ten should be found there?

We all know of the massacre that took place in Israel on October 7th, 2023 and the war waged by Israel in response. And yet many of us have forgotten the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Parshat Vayera, Genesis Chapter 18, god said:

The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave! I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me; if not, I will take note.

And Abraham said,

Will you sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?

Abraham continues,

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 the innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?

It is a valid point. The death of fifty innocents would be unjust. God gives Abraham an opening and says,

If I find within the city of Sodom fifty innocent ones, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.

God acquiesces and denounces collective punishment. And Abraham says,

Here I venture to speak to my lord, I who am but dust and ashes: What if the fifty innocent should lack five? Will you destroy the whole city for want of the five?"

Abraham proceeds to haggle with god from forty-five to forty and then to thirty, twenty and finally,

Let not my lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found?"

The lesson is clear. Jews are not to exact retribution on the innocent.

As of this writing, more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in the military campaign launched in response to the murder of 1,200 Israelis.

Will you sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?

If you think that all 10,000 Palestinians killed in these past few terrible weeks are culpable for the terror of October 7th, you are at best misinformed.

According to CNN, children are nearly half of all casualties.

Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?

Some are pointing to elections that happened nearly twenty years ago as evidence that there are not enough innocents to forgive Gaza for their sake. And yet all of these people would be scandalized if the same electoral logic were applied to them. After all, they didn't vote for Biden / Trump / Obama / Bush.... They can not be held responsible.

Others argue that Hamas uses tactics that deliberately put civilians at risk and so Israel's hands are tied. There is not easy answer here, but we must remember that in Genesis Chapter 18, Abraham convinced god that even ten innocent lives count for more than an entire city of wickedness.

And Gaza is not Sodom. And Israel is not God. And there are are many thousand times more than ten innocents.

And I'll take my cue from Abraham.

What if ten should be found?