Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 47 - Rabbi Oded Mazor

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

This is my blessing for you and for all of us. This is what I pray for when I envision our future.

Two great rabbis offered one rule each, a single instruction that would reflect a guiding principle for the whole Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Rabbi Akivah said: “this is a great rule in the Torah”. Ben Azai said, “This is the record of the descendants of Adam”, this is a greater rule. (Sifra Kedoshim 2).

The fact that the Sifra offers these two options and not just one, reflects the fact that Judaism has no absolute dogma. Even when it comes to the greatest rules of the Torah, we have two opinions. This serves as an invitation: what is the greatest rule in the Torah for you?

My choice for the greatest rule in the Torah is found in the Torah portion of “Vayeira”, when God said: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep my ways by doing what is right and just…”(Genesis 18, 17-19).

The Torah allows us to hear God’s inner dialogue. This is the Divine talking to Itself: “Why should I hide anything from Abraham?” This internal dialogue is here to teach us, it is a lesson about values and how to act: "so that he will direct his children and his household". 

What does the God of Abraham want him to share with the next generations?

God’s internal dialogue in these verses allows us to hear the Divine’s answer to Itself. Why does God reveal to Abraham what God is about to do to Sodom and Gamora? So that Abraham will think, feel, act, learn and teach. What is Abraham supposed to learn? That one must protect creation, all humanity, all God’s creatures - even if it means quarreling with the Divine decree! Even if God – yes, God! – says: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grievous", Abraham’s role is not just to listen but to react, to speak, to verify if this is really just and right. "Abraham approached and said: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? … Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

What courage, commitment, and readiness Abraham demonstrated: God! Don’t forget Your Divine essence!

We, the children of Abraham and Sarah and the children of Abraham and Hagar and all who see Abraham as their parent, the parent of their faith, we all accept, in the most direct way that the Torah enables us, this great rule, the guiding principle that includes everything. This is what God asked Abraham to pass on to us: to do what is just and right. We must not be deterred from demanding this, even from God and certainly not from any human authority, or from any person, including ourselves.

May we be blessed with this, Israel. May we live in health, peace and joy to fulfill this together.


Rabbi Oded Mazor

Rabbi Oded Mazor, Rabbi at Kehilat Kol HaNeshama in Jerusalem, received ordination from the Israeli Beit Midrash of the HUC and now teaches there. Married and father to three.

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