The Tzaddik Missing from Sodom
G-D deems Avraham worthy of being privy to His verdict regarding Sodom. And while he tries with all his soul to fathom the depths of
What, then, is his entire negotiation with
Avraham knows the nature of the righteous. He knows how he would feel were he to stand in the place of the individual who merited saving himself from destruction that befalls the rest of the community. Anyone might experience survivor’s guilt, but a tzaddik’s pain in witnessing the destruction of his surrounding community is far greater. Avraham imagines that, had he been living in Sodom, he would have spared no effort and would have worked unceasingly to improve his fellow citizens who had deviated from the path. He would have suffered agony over the loss of every soul he had hoped and worked to save.
Avraham’s question to
We see that Avraham regarded the salvation of the whole community as the reward of the righteous who share in the suffering of the community. The tzaddik whom Avraham imagines in Sodom does not look on the moral ruin of his fellow countrymen with apathy. He does not isolate himself and say, What have I to do with others’ troubles? I have to spare my own soul. Such a person would not merit the salvation of the entire community on his behalf, since the fate of the community is essentially, according to his own thinking, not his concern. If he had already abandoned them and separated himself, then their suffering and destruction do not touch his heart. He may even feel satisfaction at having escaped the harsh judgment by virtue of his seclusion.
Not so Avraham’s tzaddik — whom he describes as dwelling “in the midst of the city.” For that tzaddik — who lives connected with his environment and never ceases to teach and hope and aim for its rectification — the community would be saved.
- Sources: Commentary, Ber. 18:23-25