In this week’s Torah portion of Vayeira, G-d tells Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorra. Then it says, “… And Abraham was still standing before G-d. Abraham came forward and said, ‘Would You blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!'”
If Abraham was still standing before G-d, what does it mean that he came forward? Rashi explains that he didn’t come forward in a physical sense, but rather, he prepared himself emotionally to defend Sodom and Gomorra from annihilation. He prepared to argue sternly with Him, to appease Him and to pray to Him.
First Abraham spoke sternly, saying, “Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!” In appeasement he said, “It would be sacrilegious for You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are alike! Shall the Judge of the whole world not judge Fairly?!” Then in prayer he said, “Behold I have begun to speak to my L-rd, and I am dust and ashes.”
We are taught about Abraham that he manifested the attribute of kindness and love. In last week’s Haftora, G-d even referred to him as “Abraham who loved Me.” So it seems strange and out of character that Abraham opens his argument with stern words. “Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!” Why doesn’t he begin with words of appeasement or prayer, and if that doesn’t work, try stern words? That would be more in character with the Abraham we know.
When it speaks of Abraham’s kindness and love, it is referring to the way he served G-d, in line with his nature. However, in this situation lives were on the line, and the angel tasked with destroying Sodom and Gomorra, were already on the way there. Abraham went against his nature and spoke sternly first, not making diplomatic calculations, because lives were in the balance.
The stories of our ancestors are lessons to us. Just as we inherit from Abraham the kindness and the love that he had, we must be ready to take action when it is called for, just as he did.
We learn from Abraham that when the well being of another is on the line – whether spiritual or physical – it is not a time for calculations, it is a time for action. Throwing yourself into the task with strong and effective action, even if it means going against your nature, is what is required. To save a life, we go the extra mile.
May the merit of the kindness and love all of the Jewish people give be the mitzva (commandment) that tips the scale and sets in motion the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.