This week‘s Torah portions begins with the phrase “and he saw.” Over his lifetime, Abraham saw many things. Not all of it was good, and not all of his responses were good. He made a few mistakes along the way; as do we all.
Take this week’s Torah portion, for example. It started out well enough – he looked up and saw three men approaching his tent. He rushed to welcome them, and they turned out to be angels of God with a wonderful message for him and his wife Sarah.
But when he saw King Abimelech’s lustfulness and Sarah’s beauty, he decided to protect himself by pretending that Sarah was his sister. He was wrong.
And Abraham wasn’t the only one. When his nephew Lot saw two men on his doorstep being attacked by a mob with rape on their minds, he offered his two daughters instead. He was wrong.
Later, after the destruction of their city, when Lot’s daughters saw that they were alone in a cave with him and thought that they were the last people on earth and therefore needed to impregnate themselves by him, they were wrong.
And when Sarah saw that Ishmael was a potential rival for her son Isaac, she banished him and his mother to the desert. She was wrong.
This week, a deranged person saw that the president used ugly rhetoric and name-calling to denigrate his detractors, and thought it was a good idea to mail bombs to them. He was wrong.
Our president sees that he can whip his supporters into a frenzy by using that ugly rhetoric and name-calling. He is right that it works – wrong to do so.
We expect our leaders to be merely human, of course, but we also expect them to see that they are responsible to rise above the trivial, to do the right thing, and to encourage everyone else to do the right thing. Because when leaders sink to the depths, their followers do too.
This week we have seen the fruits of a leader’s hateful rhetoric. People whom the president has vilified are now being terrorized. Given the vitriol of his verbal attacks, perhaps it is no surprise that prominent critics of the president were sent bombs.
As citizens, we too are responsible for our national discourse. Because we too have a voice, we too have an opportunity and a responsibility to speak and act.
Our job is to see the right course and do everything in our power to correct our nation’s path. To vote. To speak out in every way possible against hatred, against fear-mongering, against name-calling, against violence.