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In Genesis 18:23-33, Avraham pleads with God to spare Sedom from the destruction it had earned through its wicked institutionalized cruelty. Eventually, Avraham extracts an agreement from God that the presence of even ten "צדיקים" - righteous people in the city would be enough to prevent its destruction. Unfortunately, even ten such people were not to be found, and the destruction proceeded on schedule.

I'm wondering what individuals would have had to do to qualify as one of these "righteous people." Would it be enough to personally abstain from participation in Sedom's system of oppresssion? Would ten people speaking out in favor of Avraham-style kindness and against Sedomite protectionism have been sufficient to protect the city? Would there have to be a demonstrable impact on Sedomite society from their speech, or would protests falling on deaf ears be sufficient? Or would God only save Sedom in the merit of ten people taking some sort of action beyond speech to bring about reform?

  • In other words, did Avraham ask for absolute Tzadikim or relative ones? BTW does anyone define Tzadik at all? – Al Berko Jul 15 at 4:35
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    @AlBerko I'm not sure about that framing. I'm asking about God's standards for saving Sedom, which He negotiated quantitatively with Avraham. Presumably, God and Avraham had a shared qualitative idea of what these tzadikim would have to be doing to be worthy of causing salvation. – Isaac Moses Jul 15 at 12:00
  • In Kiddushin 49b we have: על מנת שאני צדיק אפילו רשע גמור מקודשת שמא הרהר תשובה בדעתו. Sounds like even the most wicked person can be considered a “tzadik” merely by having a thought of repentance. – Alex Jul 15 at 12:28
  • @Alex is there any basis for applying that definition to this context? Are you suggesting that ten individuals who had experienced fleeting thoughts of repentance would have saved Sedom? – Isaac Moses Jul 15 at 12:58
  • @IsaacMoses Is there a specific reason to think the same definition wouldn’t apply? – Alex Jul 15 at 18:06
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partial answer:

'or would protests falling on deaf ears be sufficient?'

We see in Rashi that Avrohom based 9 (plus Hashem) as the minimum needed to save on the Mabul having eight (Noach his wife, his sons, his sons wives ). As we know Noach was unable to change his generation, we seem to be dealing with righteous in themselves.

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