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To Save a Life

When G-d informed Abraham of his plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham tried with all his might to save the towns. As the verse testifies, “Abraham approached and said, will you even destroy the righteous with the wicked?”

Rashi in his commentary interprets the verse thus: “For all these Abraham approached: to speak harshly, to placate, and to pray.”

Abraham tried every means at his disposal to save the towns. First he spoke harshly to G-d, then softened his tone and tried placation, supplication and prayer. All this to save the wicked people of Sodom from destruction.

Abraham is referred to by G-d as “Abraham, the one who loves Me.” If so, how it is it possible that Abraham, the beloved of G-d, would turn to Him and speak in harsh language? Where did Abraham get the audacity to address G-d in this way? Moreover, Abraham began his speech with harsh words and only later switched to placation and prayer—quite uncharacteristic for Abraham, the man of peace.

However, Abraham knew what was at stake. G-d had already resolved to destroy the towns, due to their wickedness. In fact, He had already sent the angels of destruction to carry out their mission of devastation. Abraham saw no way out other than to turn to G-d with utmost firmness and demand that the people of Sodom be saved. Abraham made no calculations, of how likely he was to succeed in this task. He didn’t weigh the matter or struggle with himself to determine if it was worthwhile for him to get involved, to take a stand. As soon as he heard that human life was threatened—and what sort of lives? Lives of the most degraded sort—he threw himself into the fray, and championed the cause of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their deeds were the very antithesis of the approach of Abraham, who greeted every wayfarer with love and kindness, while the Sodomites cruelly drove off strangers and refused to give aid to the needy. Nevertheless, Abraham spoke up and argued with G-d for their salvation.

His response is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Noah, who did nothing to intercede on behalf of the people of his generation, but rather watched from the safe confines of his ship while the people were washed away. For this reason, in fact, the waters of the deluge are sometimes referred to as “waters of Noah”—he could have averted the disaster, but made no effort to do so. Abraham was ultimately unsuccessful in changing G-d’s mind, and the cities were destroyed. Yet his arguing and pleading with G-d stand as a stark lesson to us, his descendents.

When lives are at stake, and even when the threat is not physical but spiritual, we must not sit back and weigh how likely we are to succeed. We must go forth energetically, with our full enthusiasm and effort, even if it goes against our character and even if we must take a strong stance and use sharp words. We must do anything in our power to save a life and to bring about salvation.

This lesson applies especially to our efforts to bring Moshiach. For what greater risk or danger is there than remaining in exile? Publicizing the message of Moshiach’s coming, and encouraging the study of Torah sources that refer to Moshiach, is the quickest and most direct path to hasten Moshiach’s coming. No effort is too great for us to make to bring about his ultimate revelation.


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