Sodom or Sukkah

Yesterday, I had the privilege and pleasure of teaching Torah on the streets of Los Angeles. Specifically on Spring Street between First and Temple, on the east side of City Hall, amongst the community of hundreds that calls itself Occupy LA. A coalition of several people with and without organizational affiliations felt the need to be present and to establish a Jewish communal presence among the growing movement of people who were frustrated by and angry at the many injustices that are plaguing this country. We sent out a call and the response was energizing. In five days we had over a hundred people who were committed to attending.

And so, on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, on the eighteenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, Tishrei, I stood before the assembled crowd and laid out texts and offered Torah. Here is a fuller version of what I wanted to teach.
The Biblical story of Sodom is one of the more disturbing stories in the Torah. Two messengers of God come to Sodom to save Lot, Abraham’s nephew, from the destruction of the town, which they are to destroy themselves—or have some part in its destruction by God. What is the sin of the town that is so great that it merits the town’s obliteration? The opening of the story frames the sin of Sodom as xenophobia. Continue reading