Vayeira: Radioactive Sins

At night, while I’m working, I need to have something in the background.  Usually, it’s music.  But sometimes I need something more to keep me awake.  I can’t listen to Torah, because I can’t focus on work and listening at the same time.  I need something that’s floating in the background that I don’t need to concentrate on so much.  So, I prefer stuff that is more . . . oh… . . . controversial, that will get my blood going.  Listening to some of the nonsense that Open Orthodox is spouting is a favorite of mine, but they don’t have too much out there, and some of their "Torah" is so wrong, it's just annoying.  I WISH Reform Rabbis had weekly shiurim or something.  Jews for Judaism was very interesting, and I like it a lot, but again, it requires concentration.


So, I was happy to receive a CD in the mail from a missionary group that has been sent nation-wide.  I didn’t listen to the whole thing.  Just the beginning when this formerly-Jewish rich guy talks about how he was raised in a Jewish home where the only mitzvah that they were obligated and allowed to keep was not to marry a non-Jew.  Of course, his life is full of bitterness, trouble, drinking, women, etc., and of course, while he’s at a low point in life, he finds The Big J, and lives happily ever after.


It’s interesting, because Rabbi Tuvia Singer, one of the heads of Jews for Judaism pointed out that you ALWAYS hear these stories of people in the sewers finding “J.”  Yet, you never hear of people finding Moshe in the sewers.  He explained that this is the "tumah," the impurity of such a religion.  Usually, people are not turned on to Judaism when they are in the midst of drugs, drinking, and women.  Yet, they are to Christianity.  Interesting point.


The Kli Yakar brings an interesting point I thought I would share.  We know that Sodom was destroyed due to their lack of justice (and plenty of injustice) and of their immorality.  He points out though, that it was really because of their perversion of justice that they were destroyed, rather than the immorality.  How does he prove this?


Regarding immorality, the Torah states (Vayikra 18:27) that the land becomes tamei (impure).  This effect is something that not even idol worship does.  The sin of immorality is comparable to what happened in Chernobyl.  One "problem" caused the evacuation of an entire city and surrounding area, making the land radioactive for several hundred, if not thousand years.  That is the power of the sin of immorality.


The Kli Yakar explains that when the land becomes tamei, so do the inhabitants, whether they are the cause of the impurity or not.  Like radioactivity, this tumah affects everything that it comes in contact with.


With this in mind, we see two things that prove that immorality was not the primary cause of Sodom’s destruction.  The first is that Hashem says that He Himself will see what is causing “an outcry."  If the land was so polluted from immorality, even Hashem, would not “venture” to go there.  Secondly, we see that when Avraham was pleading with Hashem to save the city, he was asking to save the city on behalf of the righteous who lived there.  If immorality was the main cause, then the righteous would have moved out already or they would have been contaminated themselves.  If there was even a possibility of righteous people living there, it must be that the main sin was injustice rather than immorality.


So, it’s interesting to learn this bit of information.  However, we see something much more meaningful here.  The power of immorality.  There is something very specific to this particular sin that makes it even more powerful than stealing or idol worship.  Like radioactivity, it consumes all in its way.  And that is why Judaism has always taken very strong positions in halacha and minhag (customs) to keep away from anything that could lead to immorality.  Many people who think they know everything, like to jest against such halachos and minhagim, but they fail to grasp the power of this sin and the powerful outcome that comes from it.


It behooves us well to keep this in mind the next time the Yetzer Horah brings us any “gifts” to share.


Have a great Shabbos!

Michael Winner