Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” — Genesis 18:23
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeira, which means “and he appeared” is from Genesis 18:1—22:24, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 4:1–37.
When God decided to destroy the city of Sodom, He informed Abraham about His plan. After all, Abraham would be God’s partner in perfecting the world. He deserved to know. Abraham didn’t want to see the death of his fellow human beings, especially the good ones. So he prayed on their behalf and tried to bargain with God. The conversation went something like this:
Abraham: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” What if there are 50 righteous people in Sodom? Will you save them all?
Abraham: What if there are only 45?
Abraham: How about 40?
30? Yes. 20? Yes. Ten? Yes.
Abraham struck a deal. If there were only 10 righteous individuals in Sodom, God would save the entire city. Unfortunately, even 10 righteous people could not be found, and the city was destroyed. So why are we given the details about Abraham’s attempt to save Sodom? Wouldn’t it have been enough to say that Abraham prayed on their behalf?
Like everywhere else in the Bible, Judaism teaches that every detail is provided for a reason. It has something to teach us about how we should live. In this case, Abraham’s conversation with God is a lesson on achieving goals.
Abraham approached God with great trepidation when he presented his request. He knew that he was asking a lot. But ultimately, Abraham was successful in achieving his goal. How? By breaking it down into smaller, bite-sized, mini-goals. First, Abraham’s goal was to have God agree to spare the city for the sake of 50 good men. Once he secured that agreement, he went to the next goal, 45 men. In small steps, he progressed toward his ultimate goal of 10 men. Had he tried for just 10 men in the beginning, Abraham might not have succeeded.
Do you have a great goal that you want to achieve? Try to reach it the Abraham way. Don’t go for the whole goal right away. Instead, break it down into small, easy steps, and take the journey one step at a time. Celebrate each achievement and recognize every milestone along the way. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you’ll arrive at the finish line!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President