What do you do when the society in which you live seems to have lost its way? How do you respond when the world seems to have lost its moral compass? Is there anything to do or say when educational institutions cannot tell or teach right from wrong?
Sodom was a terrible place. It was depraved and vulgar and it preached apathy as a value; “What is mine is mine and what is your is yours; that is characteristic of Sodom.” That stood in complete opposition to Avraham who was driven to share and give and who dedicated his life to teaching and improving others. Nevertheless, Avraham the optimist who believed that people could change, that societies and the world could improve, pleaded with God to spare Sodom. Yet even Avraham did not suggest that Sodom be spared unless there were a meaningful number of righteous people b’toch ha’ir, in the midst of the city.
The classic commentator Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra (12th century) understood this phrase as implying that the presence of good people would only be redeeming if they could live their values publicly. If their virtue would be silenced and driven underground, their presence in the city would have no effect, both because the truth would be buried and because a community that intimidates truth-tellers is irreparable.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch went further, requiring the presence of righteous people who refuse to look on idly at the moral ruin of their fellow citizens. Avraham’s righteous man “in the midst of the city” who could save Sodom would be someone who is “in lively connection with his whole environment. He never ceases admonishing and teaching, objecting and warning, rectifying and saving, as much as he is able. He is attentive to everyone and never tires of trying to right things – even if hope for success is slight. He never despairs of man and hastens to undertake any action for the sake of man.”
In the current moment, the truth is struggling to find its place in the midst of this country. It is rarely seen in the media and chased away from academia. Are there fifty truth-tellers b’toch ha’ir?
On Tuesday November 14th at 1:00 pm, on the National Mall in Washington DC, voices of thousands – Jews and non-Jews – will be raised in unison to stand for truth and for life, to support the State of Israel and American Jewry, and to chase away the darkness that has been spreading over the world.
The future of this precious country depends on truth not being driven underground. The future of the world requires that clear voices of truth be raised loudly and clearly to teach and repair, never despairing of man.
We all need to be amongst those righteous voices ringing out b’toch ha’ir, for Am Yisrael, for Eretz Yisrael, for America and for the world.