The Midrash says (Bereshis Rabbah 49:13 quoted in Rashi Genesis 18:32) that Abraham stopped asking HaShem to save Sodom in the merit of less than 10 people because Noah and his family who were 8 people weren't able to save the world. The question is that from Noah we only see that 8 doesn't work, but not that anything less than 10 doesn't work. So why didn't Avraham daven for the merit of nine people?

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    Because one of Noah's grandchildren was born on the border... Oh sorry wrong midrash.
    – avi
    Oct 28, 2011 at 8:57
  • Perhaps the better question is why any fixed number is "enough". The good should survive and the evil should perish. Whence these arbitrary amounts of dubious significance?
    – Double AA
    Dec 2, 2015 at 6:15
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/90094
    – msh210
    Mar 2, 2018 at 7:23

3 Answers 3


The Chumash Shai LeMorah brings the Be'er Mayim Chaim (A commentary on Rashi written by the Maharal of Prague's brother, R' Chaim of Friedberg) says that once G-d agreed to save the 5 cities if there were 45 righteous people, Avraham understood that G-d was willing to be complete the quorum in order to save the city. (as Rashi 18:28 explains).

Once Avraham understood this, when he asked G-d to spare 3 cities in the merit of 30 righteous people (2 for the sake of 20, etc.) (Rashi 18:29), he was asking G-d to save 3 cities even if there were only 27 righteous individuals, relying on G-d to complete the quorum in each of the 3 cities.

So when Avraham was asking G-d to save 1 city if there were 10 righteous people to be found, he was asking G-d to save the city even if there were only 9 righteous people in the city, with G-d Himself counted as the 10th. (Of course, if there would be 10 without counting G-d, that would work too)

Now we can understand why Rashi jumps from 10 people to 8 people, since asking 10 was also asking 9. This also clarifies why Avraham went from 50 to 45, but went from 40 to 30 to 20 to 10, since 40 includes 36, etc.


Rashi points out G-d had already told Avraham that He would save all five cities if there were 45 righteous people. Hence Avraham knew that one city could be saved by nine righteous people, so there was no need to ask G-d. And because of Noah, he knew that eight wasn't enough even if they were there, so he stopped asking.

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    But that only reinforces the question. If nine WOULD have worked, why didn't Avraham stop asking at 10?
    – Seth J
    Oct 28, 2011 at 13:14
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    G-d had said "if there are 10 I wouldn't destroy Sodom", but there weren't ten. G-d had already said if there were 45/5 he wouldn't destroy them, so Avraham knew if there were 9 righteous, Hashem wouldn't destroy Sodom, so no need to pray for anything there. Therefore, there must be 8 or less righteous people; if 8 or less, Avraham knew praying wouldn't get anywhere.
    – Shalom
    Oct 28, 2011 at 13:42
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    By your logic, then Avraham shouldn't have had to pray at all, because he knew that if there were at least 9 G-d wouldn't destroy Sedom. Hence there must not have been 9. I don't think that's the point, though. I think the point is that G-d wanted Avraham to pray, which he did. I didn't ask the question, but I bet that's an assumption being made in the question - if he was praying anyway, and his prayers would only be answered if there were enough righteous people to merit salvation, why didn't he pray for the sake of 9 righteous people who may or may not have been there?
    – Seth J
    Oct 28, 2011 at 14:53
  • And I just noticed a typo in my first comment - should have said "did", not "didn't".
    – Seth J
    Oct 28, 2011 at 14:55
  • Avraham's first question was: "would you spare the block of all 5 cities if there were 50?", G-d said yes. "Would you spare all 5 for just 45, i.e. 9 a piece?" "Yes, but there aren't." "Okay if there were 40, would you save 4 cities?" "Yes but there aren't." "Save 3 cities for 30?" Yes but there aren't. (Presumably a block of 4 cities with 40 righteous total is more meritworthy than a block of 3 with 30. Call it critical mass or whatnot.) Once G-d says He'd even single out one city to save it, Avraham deduces 9 from 10.
    – Shalom
    Oct 28, 2011 at 15:08

When Avraham asked for 45 tsadikim, he meant for nine tsadikim by krachim and Hachem associates to them to have 10 people. Since this ask has not been agreed, Avraham understood that there is no 9 tsadikim in order to save even one krach. See Sifte h'achamim on Rachi.


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