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Vayeira/Chayei Sarah

A STRANGE NEGOTIATION
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

G-d is about to destroy the wicked inhabitants of Sedom and its surrounding cities and informs Abraham of His intentions. Abraham beseeches G-d to save the cities. He first asks G-d if He would agree to save the cities if fifty righteous people could be found. G-d agrees and then Abraham asks G-d if He would agree to save the cities if only forty-five people could be found. G-d agrees and then Abraham asks G-d if He would agree to save the cities if only forty people could be found. This cycle continues until G-d agrees to save a city even if only ten righteous people could be found.

The Telze Rov, Rabbi Yosef Yehudah Leib Bloch, points out that Abraham’s interaction with G-d seems somewhat strange? If Abraham felt that perhaps G-d would agree to save a city with ten righteous individuals then why not begin with ten and then if G-d declines the request try and renegotiate at twenty and so on? And if Abraham felt that G-d would only save the cities if there were fifty righteous individuals then why does Abraham ask for more once G-d grants his initial request?

He answers that Abraham initially felt that G-d would not agree to save the cities if there were fewer than fifty righteous individuals. Therefore, he did not bother praying for fewer than fifty righteous individuals. However, once Abraham connected deeply to G-d in prayer Abraham’s perception of G-d changed. He realized G-d’s love and compassion on an even deeper level and then felt that perhaps G-d would save the cities if there were forty-five righteous people. Abraham again proceeded to connect with G-d in prayer and then gained even deeper insight in to G-d’s love and compassion and therefore was able to ask G-d to save cities for forty righteous people. In this way Abraham’s interaction with G-d continued.

The above explanation helps us to understand a common question: Why pray for a particular result? If a particular result is good for a person G-d will deliver that result with or without prayer, so why pray? When we sincerely pray to G-d we change and transform ourselves. We become different people and our perception of G-d matures. A particular result may not have been appropriate for person A (the individual before prayer) but may be appropriate for person B (the individual transformed through prayer.) G-d does not need our prayers. He commands us to pray to change ourselves and to help us grow and mature in our understanding and connection to Him.

Sun, October 20 2019 21 Tishrei 5780