Hope in the Face of Evil

November 3, 2023 / 19 Cheshvan 5784

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, we read of the profound message highlighting our need to maintain hope and humanity in the face of evil. The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah serves as a powerful reminder of our responsibility to pursue justice and righteousness in the face of great wickedness.

In Genesis 18:23-32, we read the well-known dialogue between Abraham and Gd as they discuss the fate of the two sinful cities. Abraham, displaying his remarkable moral courage, implores Gd to spare the cities if even a small number of righteous people can be found within the city walls. This exchange reveals a fundamental Jewish commitment to seeking justice and humanity, even in the face of tremendous evil. But Gd also helps Abraham understand that evil must be eliminated with equal vigor. It is this philosophical exchange that drives the IDF every day to pursue Hamas while making every effort to protect innocent Palestinians.

The Talmud, in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 2:16, teaches us, “It is not incumbent upon [us] to complete the work, but neither are [we] at liberty to desist from it.” This profound wisdom encapsulates the Jewish pursuit for peace and justice. It acknowledges the enormity of any task, reminding us that we may not be able to eradicate all evil, but we, and the IDF, must never stop trying.

The struggle we find ourselves in today is that there is only one honest explanation for why world leaders, university professors and administrators, and others claiming to speak for the oppressed, are calling for an “immediate cease-fire” in Israel, when all Israel is trying to do is defend itself and protect its citizens.

I ask, where have these self-professing justice fighters been in fighting real-world injustice like:

  • The ongoing twenty-year genocide in Darfur, where “400,000 people have died due to violence, starvation and disease”? (Source: The Genocide Education Project)
  • The more than one million Uyghurs imprisoned by the Chinese Government and “subjected to intense surveillance, religious restrictions, forced labor, and forced sterilizations,” since 2017? (Source: Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Or Russia’s unprovoked and ongoing war on the sovereign state of Ukraine, where “27,449 civilian casualties in the country: 9,701 killed and 17,748 injured” has taken place? (Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

The answer is simple. These flag-waving pretenders are using Israel’s right to self-determination as an excuse to show their pure hatred and overt antisemitism of Jews and the State of Israel.

In our world today, we continue to witness acts of cruelty, injustice, and oppression everywhere. It can be disheartening, and it might seem impossible to change the course of history. Yet, as Jews, we must remember the enduring message of hope and justice embedded in our faith.

We are inspired by Abraham’s plea to Gd, as he never gave up on the possibility of finding goodness even in the most sinful places. We remember the Talmudic teaching that reminds us to persevere in our pursuit of justice, even when the task seems insurmountable.

Parashat Vayera reminds us that we must never lose hope in the face of evil. We are called to maintain our humanity, even when confronted with the worst of humanity. By upholding our commitment to justice, pursuing peace, and yet holding those who commit atrocities accountable, as Israel is doing today, this is the true balance of justice and mercy. We carry forward the timeless message of our faith and our responsibility to be a light unto the nations. This is the Jewish way, a path that seeks to transform darkness into light, and despair into hope.

These are the times we must band together to support one another, and, in the process, we will discover who are our real and true friends. Because we are…


Shabbat shalom.