The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are well known. While the Bible narrates the contemptible way in which the citizens of those towns treated Lot and his angelic guests, our Midrashic literature pursues the question still further. Just how wicked could the inhabitants be to warrant Divine destruction of these cities?
Many examples are given. One that stands out is the story of a bed that they offered anyone coming into town. It was made to a specific measure. If the newcomer was too short, they would stretch his or legs to match the size; if they were too long, they would perform an amputation to shorten them.
What lies behind this gruesome description is the intolerance displayed in their society of anyone whom they felt didn’t fit the mold. The men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah simply weren’t willing to trouble themselves with adjusting their own thinking to be able to accommodate significant differences in others.
To this day, we have individuals who feel marginalized because they may not fit the general patterns of society around them. These may involve sexual preference, financial condition, or religious and cultural differences.
The message contained in this Midrash is explicit: the value of a society is linked directly to the way in which it accommodates the variety of human experience—without passing judgement over individual life choices or circumstances.
Our congregation’s name, Beth Ami (House of My People), captures this spirit. At our heart is our beautiful sanctuary. As the word sanctuary implies, we exist so that everyone who comes under our roof can sense a spirit of Divine protection. As members of this congregations we can offer no less.