Sin of the Sodomites
The sin of the Sodomites was their belief that materialism was a person’s life-goal; they adored it, offered sacrifices to it, and all their laws were built around it. In their eyes, the life of a rich person had value; thus, he deserved to continue to profit and get rich. On the other hand, the life of a poor person was worthless to them, and consequently, they made sure the poor would die – or at the very least, disappear from their city. Anyone who gave food to the poor would be severely punished because they considered him a heretic, defying their gods of money and gold.
In contrast to our forefather Avraham, who searched for guests, the people of Sodom said, ‘Who needs wayfarers? They come here only to take our money.’ They declared that no one would host any guests. If a rich person visited Sodom, the inhabitants would find a valid excuse to kill him and take his money – as they planned to do to the angels who visited Lot (see Sanhedrin 109a, b).
And Yet the Appetite is Not Filled
However, no matter how much money one makes, or how much clothing, furniture, houses, or cars he owns – his life will not be any better. His inner yearning is for a life rich in spirit and values. On the contrary – running after an erroneous challenge, which does not bring real satisfaction, will just make his life hollower. The destruction that befell Sodom expressed the true reality of people whose entire lives center around materialism – in actuality, they have no life, and are ruined. Even the earth they leave behind remains barren.
Remnants of Sodom in Our Times
In this day and age, after the values of the Tanach (Bible) have spread throughout the world, there are no longer wicked people who dare to enact such cruel decrees like those of Sodom, but a number of traces still remain. Many people believe that a person’s worth is measured by his wealth, by the house he lives in, by the car he owns, or by the brand name clothing he wears. Crowds of flatterers and admirers circle the rich; the media covers the dazzling events they assemble, as if to say – this is the real life. Most politicians also worship them.
When the tycoons damage natural resources, harm the public interest, oppress their workers – few dare to stand-up to them. Thus, they acquire companies from the State for a quarter of their actual value, create cartels, prevent fair competition, raise prices, and continue to get rich at the expense of the citizens. This is the price the public pays for stupidly worshipping the tycoons.
Living in Debt
Many people will claim ‘we don’t revere the wealthy, and don’t judge people according to their income’. Nevertheless, they are enslaved to the materialistic culture. The fact is that there are so many people in debt at the end of the month. They feel they have to buy more and more, and no matter how much they earn – they’ll always find reasons to spend all the money they have. When they earned 7,000 shekels a month, they thought that if they only had 8,000, everything would be okay. Afterwards, when their salaries are raised to 10,000, they claim they need another 2,000 per month. And when their salary jumped to 15,000 a month, it turns out they need even more.
They always feel they’re lacking something, and always deceive themselves, thinking that if they earned just a little bit more, they’ll no longer feel something is missing.
The Solution: Spiritual Life
The solution to this problem is realizing that man’s true goal in life is spiritual. Money and possessions are important tools in assisting spiritual life, but they are not the goal. When a person is constantly occupied with his money and possessions, he switches everything around – for him, the tools become his goal, and as a result, his life looses meaning.
If he is fortunate to honestly examine his life, he will see that he spent the majority of his money on luxuries, while neglecting the important things. He didn’t spend sufficiently on improving his family conditions or providing his children with a good, quality education, and didn’t leave himself time to learn and do good deeds.
The problem is that even someone who successfully fills his life with spiritual content – enjoys studying, loves helping his friends, contributing to society, and settling the Land – against his will, he is affected by the materialistic society surrounding him which dictates the standard of living that anybody who does not attain feels worthless.
The standard of housing that society determines is too high, and even in the field of education – the cost’s society imposes are exorbitant. Only a society which sets for itself ethical ideals can create a solution to this problem. One of the guiding principles of such a society is that a person who earns the minimum wage should be able to manage reasonably, without receiving charity and assistance.
It doesn’t make sense that in a generation like ours, where the standard of living has increased dramatically, and where even a person who earns the minimum wage can live the same standard of living as the rich did fifty years ago – there are so many people who feel they can’t afford to buy a house, raise children, and provide them with quality education.
I will continue to deal with this topic, God willing, in the future.