Parshat VaYera

One of the main events that takes place in this week’s parsha is the destruction of the city of Sedom. While the destruction was inevitable in the eyes of Hashem, Avraham, on the other hand, had a different approach. Avraham searched for the slightest hint of virtue among Sedom’s overwhelmingly immoral society in hopes of saving even some people. As it says in Bereishis 18:23:
“.רשע עם צדיק תספה האף ויאמר אברהם ויגש”

According to p’shat, it seems like Avraham was trying to bargain with Hashem. However, the real challenge for Avraham here is the lack of chesed involved in trying to help the people of Sedom. When Avraham says in 18:26,
“משפט יעשה לא הארץ כל השופט לך חלילה”, he asks Hashem not to convict the whole city because there may be 10 potential tzadikim within.

Why does Avraham start off with 50 tzadikim and conclude with 10? According to Rashi, the area where Sedom and Amora were located contained three other cities as well. All together, Avraham planned to find 10 tzadikim from each city around Sedom. Avraham even said that if all five cities could not be saved, then at least four or even one would suffice if 10 tzadikim lived there.
The importance of 10 implies something much deeper. In Parshas Emor, 22:31, it says: “.ישראל בני בתוך ונקדשתי קדשי שם את תחללו ולא” From this pasuk we learn one of the most important concepts in Torah, which is sanctifying the name of God. The word “בתוך” implies the concept of a minyan. In order to generate Kedushat Hashem, you need to have a certain number, and that number is 10. When a minyan davens, their prayers are so powerful that Hashem wants to accept their tefillot immediately. The idea of Kedushat Hashem is what Avraham also stressed throughout his efforts to save Sedom.

An example of the power of 10 is found in the story of the Twelve Spies. There had been twelve spies sent to scout out the Land of Israel, and two out the 10 had only good news to say about the land. The other 10 spies, however, gave a negative report about the land. Although the information given by the two spies was the truth, the other 10 spies successfully convinced the nation to believe their negative reports instead.

The Ba’al Shem Tov illustrates this concept with a mashal: There were 10 men walking in the desert during the heat of the day without water or food. As they were walking they spotted, from afar, a green patch of land. Together the 10 men ran to the patch hoping to find some food or water. Once they reached the grass they noticed a tree covered with fruits and a stream of water. The problem was that no one could reach the fruits on the tree by themselves, therefore in order to get food they would have to work together. They decided to make a pyramid with four men on the bottom, then three men, then two men, and at last one man on top. Just as the man on top reached up to take a piece of fruit, one of the men on the bottom thought, “Why am I on the bottom? I should be up there on top instead.” As the man on the bottom started thinking this, some of the other men begin to think about it too. All of a sudden, the pyramid collapsed and each man fell down with no fruit.
So what exactly does this come to teach us? This highlights the power of a ציבור. The fact that one person’s thoughts could result in failure for everyone else emphasizes the importance of one’s mindset within a community.
This is what Avraham had trouble comprehending; he did not understand how the power of 10 could fail, even in Sedom’s case. However, instead of telling Avraham immediately that he could not turn things around, ’ה gave him the chance to realize it on his own. Therefore, through experience, Avraham came to the realization that oftentimes the bad can overrule the good, and the challenge is learning how to channel that good in every situation.

I would like to thank Rav Meyer Berglas for all of his help with this Dvar Torah. Although, some of his opinions were originally thoughts of Rav Soleveitchik I appreciate all of the different Torah based connections, Shabbat Shalom.

Student Studying in Midreshet Moriah