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Minding Our Own Business: Proper Behavior or a Trait of Sodom?‏‏

הידיעה על מות האם ובנה
Yad Sarah, Israel’s largest volunteer organization, best known for lending medical equipment for home use, reported two tragic cases yesterday. In the first, the body of a 60-year-old man was found in his home in Jerusalem. The man had been dead for two weeks. In the second, a 71-year-old woman and her 51-year-old son were found dead in their apartment in Haifa. It appears that the woman’s son, who had been his mother’s caregiver, had died unexpectedly, and his mother had died some time later due to lack of care.
My purpose in writing this is not to plunge my readers into despair first thing in the morning, but to have all of us pay attention and do better, starting today. Each of us can be aware of elderly neighbors who live on their own and check in on them every so often.
Our sages tell us that there is an approach to life known as “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” – in other words, minding our own business. We don’t meddle in other people’s lives, and they don’t meddle in ours. Although there might seem to be nothing wrong with such an attitude, some commentators call it “a trait of Sodom.” This was the approach of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were eventually destroyed: one might not be taking from others, but one also did not extend care to people suffering hardship.
The Patriarch Abraham, known in Jewish tradition as the archetype of lovingkindness, demonstrates a different approach in the portion of the Torah that we read this week: “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours.” Abraham went beyond himself, looking for ways to repair, spread light, and help people in trouble. He sought ways to give physically by providing wayfarers with food and drink, and to give spiritually by listening to others and offering them caring, education, and faith. We call him “Abraham our father” to this day. May we walk in his footsteps, and may we never hear such news reports again.


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