Colors: Green Color

We are introduced to Sodom and Gomorrah in last week’s parshah of Lech-L’cha (See B’reishis 13:10, etc.). We continue to read of Sodom and its ultimate destruction in this week’s parshah of VaYeira. Aside from being told that the people of Sodom were “wicked and sinful toward Hashem exceedingly,” we are not given, in any detail, how awful the people of Sodom were. Yet we know they must have been bad if G-d decided that they were not worth saving, no matter how much Avraham pleaded on their behalf.

By now, many of you have heard of my intention to retire from my position as Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. The purpose of this article is not to reflect on my years in the rabbinate or the community. I will save that, bli neder, for another time. Rather, I would like to focus on an observation from the perspective of one who is at the dusk of his rabbinic career.

In B’reishis (32:5), Yaakov Avinu instructs his angels to relate to his brother Eisav: “To my lord to Eisav, so said your servant Yaakov: I have sojourned with Lavan [Laban, in English] and have lingered until now.” Rashi notes the Hebrew word “garti” for “I have sojourned” has the numerical equivalent of 613, the number of mitzvos contained in the Torah. The message Yaakov is conveying, explains Rashi, is that although I was living with my father-in-law Laban, I kept faithful to the Torah and did not learn from his wicked ways.

The old saying goes… “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” In fact, I first saw that on a certain service vehicle years ago in Woodridge, New York. It struck me then that these people were so right. It makes no difference what you do in life; what is important is how you treat others. But…it’s still nice to feel important.