I am going to reveal a secret. Ready? Rabbis have an agenda. I know, it comes as a surprise... And here's another one: you can see the Rabbis' agendas in their comments and explanations. These Rabbinical explanations are a literary genre called Midrash. The Midrashim are a fantastic repertoire of stories and parables, told and retold by the first generations of Rabbis, after the Destruction of the Temple, and probably before. They have been passed down from one generation to another, and at a certain point in history they were written down. So, they became part of the Talmud and other works of Rabbinic literature. The Rabbis, I mean those of the current generations, like me and my colleagues, draw constantly from the Midrashim. The thing is: you can see the agenda of the Rabbis, both from the ancient centuries, and from nowadays, from the kind of Midrashim they select for their explanations. A case in point is the city of Sodom. In this week's Torah portion, it is mentioned a couple of times. One of them is the episode we have just read. The men of Sodom assembled in a mob against Lot because they wanted him to hand his two guests over to them. The inhabitants of Sodom wanted "to do as they please" to Lot's guests, an expression that most possibly meant to sexually violate them. The guests are angels, malakhim, but they took a human form, so the inhabitants of Sodom saw them as humans, but they had a quasi-divine nature, as they were emissaries from the Almighty. They were sent by God to investigate whether the city of Sodom really deserved to be destroyed. A few paragraphs before this episode, indeed, God had decreed that the city of Sodom was so corrupt and pervert, that it was not worthy to exist anymore. Abraham successfully argued with God on behalf of the city; the Almighty then decided to suspend His judgement because, so Abraham suggested, at least ten righteous men, a minyan of good people, could be found in the city, and -if they existed- they did not deserve to die with the evil folk. It turned out that these ten righteous men did not exist, that the inhabitants of Sodom, all of them, wanted to have their way with the emissaries of the Almighty, and the rest of the city did nothing to prevent the crime. They were bystanders, silent and indifferent bystanders in front of the evil. But, precisely, what was the sin of the inhabitants of Sodom? Why was the city so lost and perverted and deserved to be wiped out together with its inhabitants? This is the kind of question the Midrashim help to answer. And, also, the kind of answers by which we can spot the Rabbi's own agenda. Of course, a city whose inhabitants want to have their way with visitors and guests is abject enough to deserve destruction. By the way, we all know the meaning of the word Sodomites, whose roots are from this episode. The sin of the Sodomites was the homosexual inclination and whoever nurtures these sorts of inclinations deserve to die, if you wanted to read the story in this way. But, please, notice, this is a Christian reading of the Biblical text, it is not the Jewish reading. In the Jewish reading, the sin is not the homosexual inclination, rather the attitude towards rape. Raping and violating strangers and visitors was the custom in that city. The inhabitants of Sodom were indifferent towards the crime, and for this reason God saw the city as corrupt and lost. The Midrashim adds another level of explanation. In one story the inhabitants of Sodom are portrayed as cruel and hypocrites. When some traveller looks for hospitality and a refuge, they welcome him inside the town. So, they can claim they have fulfilled the duty of welcoming the guests, the refugees, those in search of help. Welcoming is not enough. This poor fellow, besides needing for a place to stay, needs to eat and hopefully to work to earn a living. The Sodomites, rather than feeding the refugee, gave him gold, jewels, and precious stones. Look how generous and kind and compassionate we are. We give them lots of money, gold, silver and precious stuff. Which of course cannot be eaten. And the inhabitants of Sodom also refused to engage in commercial transactions with the newcomers, and he has literally nothing to eat. Of course, he cannot go elsewhere, he would lose a place to stay, and will be without a refuge And so, this poor fellow, a refugee, one who is forced to beg for a living, dies of starvation. He dies, but literally covered in gold. Once the visitor is dead, of course the Sodomites are free to take back their valuables. Notice the sophisticated cruelty. Even the generosity, with which the refugee was welcomed, was a fake one. They knew he would die of starvation, and that the gold, the silver and the money would be returned to the previous owners. So much for solidarity, generosity and welcoming. That was the rule in such a city, say the Rabbis in this Midrash. Therefore, God had decided to sweep away Sodom. Not because of the sexual inclinations, as the Christians like to read into the text, but because of the lack of hospitality, the cruelty towards victims and refugees, and the hypocrisy of welcoming them only to show off your fake good heart and generosity, for a short time. Once we read the Biblical passage with the help of the Midrashim, that is in the Jewish way, we understand why God decided to erase the city of Sodom. That city was a dangerous place. We can assume that refugees and wanderers thought that Sodom was a welcoming place, and say to each other: "look, we can take refuge there and be safe, they literally cover you with gold". And once they entered the city, they were lost and die in a terrible atrocious way. Of course, this Midrash is very telling for these days. Refugees literally knock at the doors of our cities looking for a refuge and for means to survive. It does not need a particularly sophisticated reader to understand this moral imperative of not turning our cities into today’s Sodom. But it should also be noted that these refugees expect to work hard and to earn their living in an honest way, rather than dying of starvation, covered in gold, unable to find their place in the economic system of the town. Someone maintains that in this Midrash we can read a call for empathy towards the exiled and refugees. Which is true. But we should also read in the story the appreciation of a working and healthy economic system, based on honest trade and industry. The city of Sodom deserves to die not because of the lack of sexual morality of its inhabitants, but without a working economy, it has nothing to offer to its inhabitants, neither to the refugees that look for hospitality. May our Country not become another Sodom. In the Rabbinic way, of course.