Parshas Vayera:
Like a Mother and a Child

By Rabbi Landa

In this week's Parsha Hakadosh Baruch Hu tells Avraham of his intention to destroy Sodom. Avraham is greatly distressed and pained by this and immediately begins to beseech Hakadosh Baruch Hu to spare the city. The Torah relates Avraham's prayer as follows:

"Hakadosh Baruch Hu, will you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Perhaps there are 50 righteous people in the city, will you still destroy it? Please can you spare the entire city in the merit of the 50 righteous that dwell there. It would be sacrilege for you to do such a thing which brings death upon the righteous along with the wicked; so the righteous will be judged like the wicked. It would be sacrilege to you! Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?"

To which Hakadosh Baruch Hu replied that he would indeed spare the entire city in the merit of the 50 righteous people. Avraham's prayer, however seems to be inconsistent. In the beginning and the end Avraham's argument and prayer is that it's not fair and just to destroy the righteous along with the wicked. In the middle, however, he asks to spare the city entirely because of the righteous! Where is the argument for that?

The explanation may be as follows. In the Torah portion of Ki Sisa we read, that after some members of Israel served the Golden Calf, Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to destroy the Jewish people. In the middle of Moshe Rabbeinu's supplication to spare Israel, he said:
" If you will forgive the sin, well and good, but if not please erase me from the Torah you have written." Our sages explain that Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to rebuild the JP from the seed of Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu refused. If the JP would not be around to be chosen and receive the Torah, Moshe wanted no part in it either. Moshe's devotion to Israel was so great, he was willing to lay down his life and existence for them. That is how the Tzaddikim of Israel in every generation were. The joy of the people was their joy and their sorrows were their personal sorrow. The welfare of each and every Jew was always on their minds and hearts. When Moshe felt the burden of the nation was too great, he cried out to Hakadosh Baruch Hu " How can I carry this people like one carries a nursing infant?" That was how Moshe saw his relationship with Israel, like a mother nurturing and caring for her baby.

To Avraham who was standing before G-d, praying for a people who were wicked , who were neither his relatives nor his friends, it was inconceivable that the 50 Tzadikim that dwelled in the city would not view the destruction and death of their city, as anything but their own personal death and destruction, whether they themselves were spared or not. In Avraham's mind, the destroying even of only the wicked in the city was tantamount to destroying the righteous too. The tzadikim are one with their people, as a mother with her child. Avraham's prayer was consistent: in order to spare the righteous the wicked must be spared too.

Our sages say that one must always inquire of himself: "When will my actions be like those of my forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov." We have a lot of work to do.

by Rabbi Yosef Landa

Nov 5, 1996

Rabbi Landa is a full time member of the Chicago Community Kollel. I f you have any questions about this piece please email him at



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