Sodomites in our own time
Rabbi Rothbaum presents a humorous yet actually very serious account of what it means to be a Sodomite today. Though we in the liberal and progressive world might immediately identify his description with the policies of the Trump Administration and the Republican Party, with considerable justice in so doing, we ought to also acknowledge that when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, their efforts to end homelessness and hunger in the U.S. (much less around the world) were feeble when compared to the spending that they did for the U.S. military. And when inheriting the economic crisis in 2009, the Dems funded a massive bailout of….no, not the people losing their homes because of deceitful or misleading mortgage practices of the banks and investment companies, but rather the large corporations and the investment companies, without getting in return any serious lasting commitment to change their destructive policies. So we are all implicated in the Sodomite sins of our government until we elect candidates who are unequivocally giving priority to ending the suffering of the most vulnerable in our society and around the world (e.g. through Tikkun’s proposed Global Marshall Plan www.tikkun.org/gmp --Rabbi Michael Lerner P.S. and talking about vulnerable, Tikkun itself badly needs your financial help in the form of tax-deductible contributions NOW, pretty please!!!!
How to become a Sodomite in five easy steps!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, all asking me the same thing: “Rabbi, I’d like to be a Sodomite, but I just don’t know how to start.”
Believe me, I understand. It’s easy to get confused about Sodomy. The way some people describe it, you’d think that Sodomy involved exhausting physical contortions and esoteric sexual disciplines.
Not so! In fact, the biblical story of Sodom actually has almost nothing to do with body parts!
In the book of Genesis, the motivating factor for the residents of Sodom is not lust, but rage. What are the Sodomites so mad about? Well it turns out that a guy named Lot — nephew of Abraham, the first Hebrew man — has immigrated to the town of Sodom. The Sodomites don’t take kindly to immigrants to begin with, but Lot goes even farther: He offers hospitality to other immigrants.
It is this act — helping others in need — that’s the final straw for the Sodomites, the thing that brings the entire town of Sodom to Lot’s door, a murderous mob of venom and fury.
When you hear that somebody is helping the poor and vulnerable, somewhere in your town, do you too begin to feel the acrid and angry bile of resentment rising in your gut?
If you answered “yes,” then I have good news: You’re well on your way to being a Sodomite!
But anger is just a starting place. Here are five simple steps to becoming the best Sodomite you can be:
1. Be blessed with a lot of money. The Talmud, the Jewish people’s encyclopedic storehouse of lore and law, explains where Sodom’s corruption came from. In a section of the Talmud called Sanhedrin, the rabbinic sages explain that Sodom was so blessed by God that bread literally “came out of the earth,” the stones of Sodom were made of sapphire and its dust was made of gold. If you really want to be a good Sodomite, it helps to be in the top 1 percent.
2. Develop a paranoiac fear of parting with that money. Despite having tons of money, the Sodomites irrationally obsessed over losing it. The sage Rabbi Nathaniel explained that, in order to prevent immigrants and the poor from taking any of their wealth, “they even fenced in all the trees above their fruit so that it could not be taken — not even by a bird of heaven.” No doubt the people of Sodom would today live in guarded and gated communities, raging against any tax money that might somehow, tragically, end up in the hands of the poor.
3. Despite having plenty, refuse to help the needy in any way. Having lots of money is a good start, but to achieve Sodomite status you’ll have to go farther. “This was the sin of your sister Sodom,” explains the Biblical prophet Ezekiel. “She and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” So sure, of course you’ll want to refuse to help the poor in your town. But don’t stop there! Make sure you refuse to provide the poor with any of the basic elements of subsistence, like proper wages, healthy food, safe housing and health care. That’s the genius of Sodom at work.
4. Prohibit immigration, and torture any immigrants who make it to your town. Sure, you’ve made the poor of your own city really miserable. But don’t let down your guard — there are people from other places to brutalize. The Talmud explains that any immigrant who somehow made it to the gates of Sodom was mercilessly tormented. The Sodomites “had beds upon which immigrants slept — if the visitor was too long for the bed, they shortened him by lopping off his feet; if too short for the bed, they stretched him out on a rack.” A really good Sodomite would hound and harass immigrants and refugees, condemning them to torturous detention camps. Do you think you have what it takes?
5. Brutalize everyone else, just for good measure. As fun as it is, abusing immigrants and the poor sometimes just leaves you hungering for more. To remedy this problem, the Talmud explains that Sodom set up a high court populated by corrupt and perverse judges. Their rulings encouraged everyone to be awful to everyone. If a man assaulted another man’s wife, the court “would say to the husband, ‘Give [your wife] to him, so she may become pregnant!’” If a person stabbed his neighbor, “they would say to the victim, ‘Pay him a fee for bloodletting!’” For Sodomy to fully take root, you’ll want to reinforce the message that violence, especially against women and the poor, is expected and praised. To ensure that violence fills the land, consider flooding your land with deadly weapons, like firearms.
Sounds daunting, right? So many boxes to check. And yet I think you’ll find that, with a little hard work, Sodomy isn’t nearly as difficult to achieve as you might have first thought.
In truth, plenty of people, just like you and me, are right now doing their part to create a Sodomite society of cruelty to immigrants, indifference to suffering and a borderline orgiastic celebration of greed.
In fact, you might even say it almost feels like we’re living in Sodom right now.
This article appeared first in the J–Jewish Bulletin of Northern California