Once upon a time, adults used to go to work, and kids went to school. But every so often, whether by design or necessity, adults would bring their kids to work with them. In some small part, it was an opportunity to provide a glimpse into the future, to help children understand what it is that adults do for a living. As children grow up, of course, it can even (depending on the profession) become a way of showing our kids the ropes, preparing them to step into our shoes, perhaps even to follow us into our own adult lives.
The conversation often goes something like this… “Some day, my child is going to grow up and inherit this business. I should show him how it works.”
Or even, if you happened to be G-d, it might go something like this:
Now the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Avraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him? For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his house after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is just and right, in order that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what He has promised him. Then the LORD said, “The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave!” (Gen 18: 17-20)
And then G-d explains that He is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
Think about what this really means: G-d is sharing what it means to be in charge. The lesson is clear enough: whoever is in charge is morally obligated to judge evil, and carry out that judgement. And G-d is showing Avraham how He makes decisions, specifically because it is Avraham’s descendants who are to inherit that responsibility.
This story, perhaps more than any other in the Torah, is proof that it is our responsibility to deal with the evil in this world. We are not given the luxury of being able to turn a blind eye, to rationalizing away the bad things that happen in this world. We were shown, by G-d, how He handles things in the office, and we were shown it precisely because we are His agents on this earth, responsible for carrying out his work, “to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right.”
When Avraham learns G-d is about to do something which seems drastic, just like the child visiting at work, Avraham questions whether that drastic action is really necessary. A conversation ensues, and one in which G-d and Avraham negotiate, across the table. In the end, both sides give in, and a compromise is struck. G-d humors Avraham, but He changes his position nevertheless, in response to the feedback from His child. It is how a good boss treats a promising junior addition to the team.
G-d brought Avraham to the office, and then we his descendants, were given copies of the keys, as full partners in this enterprise. And as partners, we have to do what is just and right, walking in G-d’s path. Let’s not let Him down.