2 Minutes of Torah Study – Vayera

What was the sin of the Sodomites?

From the Biblical Text:

“Adultery and false dealing. They encourage evildoers so that no one turns back from his wickedness. To Me they are all like Sodom…” (Jeremiah 23:14 )

“This was the sin of your sister Sodom: arrogance! She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)

“Moab shall become like Sodom…that is what they shall get for their haughtiness.” (Zephaniah 2:9, 10)

And From Early Jewish Literature:

“The men of Sodom said…why should we suffer wayfarers, who come to us only to deplete our wealth. Come, let us abolish the practice of traveling.” (Sanhedrin 109a)

“Rabbi Judah said: They made a proclamation in Sodom – everyone who strengthens the hand of the poor or the needy with a loaf of bread shall be burnt.” (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 25)

“The Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth; they became unjust towards men, and impious towards God…they hated strangers.” (Josephus, Antiquities 11:1)

Of the 39 references to Sodom in the Hebrew bible, none are related to sexual practices. Even when used in the Christian bible, Sodom is used only as an example of inhospitality.  Yes, Jude condemns the sexual practices of the Sodomites – but only that they wanted to sleep with angels. Philo, informed by stoicism and not rabbinic literature, was perhaps the first to interpret the story as a condemnation of homosexuality, a misinterpretation later made popular by Augustine. 

Join us at 9:00am in the WRJ room each week as we uncover uniquely Jewish understandings of our sacred text.