Accusations and Agreements

I hoped to find some relief to my pre-election anxiety by studying a bit of Torah. Yet, I’m so concerned about the political climate that I seem to be finding present day political implications everywhere I look, even in Torah.

In this week’s parsha, Vayera, Abraham is entangled in a political conundrum with Abimelech, ruler of the neighboring region. Abraham believes that Abimelech’s retinue has taken the water from wells dug by Abraham’s men. Abraham charges Abimelech with the deed. Abimelech’s answer was “I do not know who did this; you did not tell me, nor have I heard of it until today.”

Abraham has no proof. Yet given Abraham’s reputation as a tzaddik and the likelihood that Abimelech is responsible as the ruler of that region, I am inclined to believe that Abimelech is guilty. I’d prefer an investigation. I’d like to hear from the witnesses. But sometimes you just know.

In a surprising twist, Abraham doesn’t get even. Rather than becoming embroiled in a battle, Abraham offers Abimelech seven lambs and the men enter into a pact of peace. The aggrieved party, Abraham, finds it better to settle the dispute rather than continue the argument, even if it means that he makes an additional offering to achieve that goal. What an amazing example of how to rise above a disagreement. Abraham understands how to create a peaceful future to supplant hostility.

The political climate is currently in a cycle of accusation and denial. No end to the pattern is in sight. With each storm, the accused parties double down on denial and reprisal. No offerings of peaceful resolution are likely to be made by any of the political combatants any time soon. Yet, Torah’s lesson, whether in the political world or our personal lives, is that cooperation is far better than confrontation. If only the leadership in power could listen and learn.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame