November 12 2011/15 Heshvan 5772 Shabbat Vayera

We’ve had hints of the depths of evil of the residents of Sodom. Last week’s Torah reading had plenty of foreshadowing. This week, in Parashat Vayera, God decides to destroy the city–all five of its boroughs. But before carrying out this comprehensive punishment, God does something interesting. God consults with Avraham.

 “Now the LORD had said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him? For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is just and right, in order that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19)

 The more famous element of this episode is Avraham’s plea-bargain with God, his search for enough righteous people in Sodom to rescue them, if not everyone. God, of course, could have circumvented this difficult conversation by moving ahead with God’s plans without mentioning anything to Avraham. But this brief look into God’s mind is instructive. Here’s how Rashi understands God’s words:

 “‘Shall I hide’–in the form of a question–‘what I am about to do’ in Sodom. It is not nice of Me to do this without his knowledge. I gave him this land, so the five boroughs are his…I called him Avraham–father of many nations–and could I destroy the children without informing the father, who loves Me?” 

 There are times when it seems prudent to avoid full disclosure, certain circumstances when we are inclined to keep the truth under wraps. The events at Penn State, which we learned about in horrid detail this week, taught us that silence in the face of reports of abuse cannot be condoned. God, who need not report to a lower authority, does so regardless. 

 Does Jewish law–halakhah–have a position on full disclosure of abuse? We’ll look at this question on Shabbat morning.