Vayera and Dreaming

This past week I joined a group of colleagues to hear Chemi (Nehemiah) Peres, the son of Shimon Peres. Mr. Peres (an accomplished businessman and activist) spoke to us about his father’s last book; a book about pursuing large dreams. Shimon Peres was certainly an accomplished statesman; as well as one of the central architects in building Israel’s defense system. Above all, he was a man who believed in always looking toward the future and never being mired in the past. He advocated peace with the Palestinians; acknowledging that making peace would be more challenging than constantly engaging in war. To Peres, compromising with Israel’s neighbors would be a painful process; yet such was an imperative for Israel to move forward into the future.

While listening to Nehemiah Peres, my thoughts turned to Abraham’s audacious argument with God on the subject of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. What motivated Abraham to question God’s decision to eradicate those cities? Although much has been written on the subject, I made a connection between Abraham’s audacity and Shimon Peres’ vision. Abraham knew that God had already destroyed the world through a flood. Despite that calamity, humanity did not improve. People would still be motivated by greed, selfishness and cruelty. Abraham reasoned that destroying the world simply did not work. Destroying Sodom and Gomorrah would be a temporary solution; since evil would not subside, humanity would ignore God’s desire for tranquility and morality. Destroying the world therefore, was an act from the past; to move into the future new alternatives were required. Consequently, Abraham was not defending the honor of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rather, he was suggesting that since evil would persist there needed to be a new approach to confronting evil. That new approach would be challenging; teaching human beings to overcome evil and to live in peace. Teaching humanity would be a long and arduous process; but ultimately preferable to continuously destroying the world. Sparing Sodom and Gomorrah and developing new ways to conquer evil would enable the world to move forward and not backward.

We are all aware of the recent tragedy in lower Manhattan. Terrorism persists; acts of a single terrorist cannot always be predicated or thwarted. Terrorist continues not only to threaten lives, but to instill fear in all of us. One central objective of terrorism is to make us too scared to walk the streets, eat in restaurants and enjoy entertainment. However, aside from our leaders remaining vigilant about eradicating terrorism, the only alternative is for us to defiantly move forward with our lives. Our objective in living passionately day to day is to relentlessly look toward the future; to deny terrorists their ultimate objectives.

Wednesday, as I walked to hear Mr. Peres, the walk took me through Times Square and the areas targeted by would be terrorists. The streets were flooded with people going to work or just enjoying the city. My Thursday meeting in New York (an interfaith gathering to see the new Eichmann exhibit in Battery Park) took place several blocks from the terrorist attack last Tuesday. Here too, people went about their lives; heading toward work, visiting the sites or just enjoying a leisurely morning. People continue to bike, to walk, and to ride on city buses. The City moved forward; undaunted by the terrorism which threatens to bring us back to the Dark Ages.

In New York and throughout the world, terrorists will persist. Whatever and wherever the tragedy, we must resolve to continuous move forward; to live our lives and to dream about a hopeful future.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Klayman