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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Who Matters More?

Hi All:

Time for the weekly biblical analysis.

Remember that annoying nephew Abraham had?  Well, he stayed behind in the infamous Twin Cities.  And Abraham was told by a few messengers from On High that not only will his wife give birth to a son at a ripe old age, but those Twin Cities are gonna get flattened.

So Abraham bargains a bit to look out for his boy Lot.  Almost reminding G-D of His promise to Noah not to annihilate an entire population when not everyone deserves it, he persuades G-D not to drop the sulphur on them if there are just 10 decent people in both cities.  Apparently the quota wasn't met, notwithstanding these negotiations.

So the messengers from On High walk right into Sodom to warn Lot that it's all gonna go down, and the local gangsters and miscreants pick up on it.  Lot, in a sorry show of cowardice, offers to let them all have their way with his daughters, so they'd leave him alone, to no avail.  Those messengers, in a display not unlike Qui-Gon Jinn and young Obi-Wan in Episode I, blind the crowd so they can't bust down Lot's door.

Just in time, Lot and his family escapes from Sodom before it's destroyed, although at least one member of his household just can't help but look back at the Strip one last time, only to be vaporized.  And then, feeling that they won't be able to find suitable mates, Lot's daughters get their father drunk so he'll perform a most unnatural act.  More on that below.

And what of Abraham?  Sarah tells him to boot Hagar and Ishmael out of the family for good.  This time, instead of blindly following her orders, he's actually feeling wrong about doing it.  But then G-D actually tells him to do what Sarah says, because Ishmael is not only going to survive, but be the father of his own "great nation," while Isaac gets the covenant.  So is a consolation prize meant to be enough?

And what does he do with the son he kept?  He almost kills him for G-D.  Volumes have already been written about that whole sorry affair.

What this selection shows is a major-league demonstration of misguided loyalty.  Prime examples of how not to respond to desperate times, even if the choices really are that difficult.

Abraham knew that his nephew, whom he already saved once, was going to be in worse trouble than before.  At that time, he had no problem bargaining with G-D to consider even the possibility of sparing the innocent.  He didn't know whether there were 10 people in Sodom and Gomorrah who were worthy enough to justify the cities' survival, but at that time, he wasn't afraid to ask G-D to reconsider a severe decree.  But that same urgency was gone for both of his sons.  His first son was getting evicted, and forced to fend for himself, with assurances from On High, that he'd be just fine, and not to worry about him.  He was already showing some strength of character by not merely accepting these circumstances without question, but showing real concern, as this was his son.  But where was his bargaining power then?  Why did he not ask G-D to just put Hagar and Ishmael in the Guest House?  Or maybe check out a new apartment for them?  Just to make sure he'd be OK by making the provisions -- how could he plead for Lot and not for his son?

Same issue with Isaac, but better known.  Where was his power of persuasion then?  He pleaded for Lot to be kept safe, but he didn't object when directed to slaughter his son on the altar.

And Lot's not that much better.  He was willing to let those low-lifes have their way with his daughters to prevent a worse rumble, and then later he allows his daughters to get him drunk and have him impregnate them?  True, the Ten Commandments had not yet come down at the time, so maybe it was technically okay to do that, but why did they have to get him drunk to make it happen?  And why couldn't he be a good enough father to say no?  It could be that his daughters had some corruption issues of their own, having grown up in Sodom, but this might have been his chance to set them straight now that they were out of that city.

It seems to me that we're taught to recognize lessons from these errors in judgment.  Unlike Abraham and Lot, we can use the right tactics for the right situation.  Abraham could have still stood up for Lot, there was nothing wrong with that choice, but he could have also stood up for both of his sons, and pleaded against the eviction and the sacrifice.  As gracious as it was of him to be a good uncle, he also needed to be a good father, because his powers of persuasion were needed by his sons even more than they were needed by his extended family.

Sometimes you have to think about it.  Consider the consequences and risks, and weigh which choice brings the greater benefit.  Don't waste your all of your smarts and arguments on issues that will effect you less, and don't "pass" or give up on issues that affect you more.  Just because some higher authority, divine or otherwise, demands that you do something that feels wrong, that doesn't mean you can't speak up and at least explain why you feel it might be wrong.  Choose your battles wisely.  Someone may thank you for it one day.