Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Vayera 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How much information do you usually need before making a big decision? To what extent do you rely on instinct, and to what extent do you need research and time to think?

As God tells Abraham of the plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Amorah, God claims this decision will not be made impulsively:

The Pitch: “‘I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me; if not, I will take note.’” – Genesis 18:21

Swing #1: “Yahweh’s decision to make an inquiry echoes the diction of the similar divine inquiry at the Tower of Babel, and both scenes thematically echo Yahweh’s inquiries into the human misdeeds in the Garden of Eden. In this mode of emplotment in [these] stories, the humans are allowed sufficient agency and leeway to commit mayhem before Yahweh joins the story and resolves the crisis.” – Ronald Hendel, Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory and History in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “The particular nuance of what now happens depends on how we understand Yahweh’s going down and knowing as he presents them. If they are read as intent or an announcement of what he will next do … they suggest that is doing a final check on the situation in the two cities to confirm what he suspects from their outcry. This suggests a certain uncertainty on Yahweh’s part.” – W. Lee Humphreys, The Character of God in the Book of Genesis: A Narrative Appraisal

Swing #3: “The design of the Deity to punish man is, therefore, introduced by the verb ‘to descend’: ‘Let us go down and there confound their language’ (Gen. 11:7); ‘And the Lord came down to see’ (Gen. 11:5); ‘I will go down now and see’ (Gen. 18:21). All these instances convey the idea that man here below is going to be punished.” – Moses Maimonides, Guide For the Perplexed

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to believe that God has already made up God’s mind about Sodom and Amorah while speaking with Abraham? Is God trying to prove to Abraham that this decision is not impulsive? Or is God really not sure? When are impulsive decisions beneficial? To what extent do you believe that God’s decisions are impulsive?

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of making key decisions, Astros manager A.J. Hinch was roundly criticized for not using his star pitcher, Gerrit Cole, during the 7th game of this year’s World Series. Hinch is among many managers who relies on statistical analysis to inform his game-time strategy. But if the Astros had won the game without using Cole, would Hinch have gotten credit, or would that have been forgotten?

Shabbat Shalom!