Maurice asked "why didn't Abraham ask "How many righteous people do there have to be in that place for you not to destroy it?"

From Rasi it is clear that Abraham knew that 10 Tzaddikim are needed to keep the place. Why didn't he ask straight "How many Tzaddikim are there?".

  • 1
    I recall hearing/seeing somewhere, I can't find it right now, that Avraham was creating "facts on the ground" so to speak. Each time he asked for a smaller number, he received an answer that Hashem wouldn't do it for that number. Although in the end it wasn't enough to save Sodom or the other cities, it created a rule that in the future, should the need ever arise, there's a precedent to hold off punishment even for less tzadikim. Had he of just asked straight out, how many are there, he wouldn't of gotten those responses and wouldn't of gotten that precedent. I'll keep looking for the source.
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 4, 2021 at 23:44
  • @Chatzkel In that case it would be reasonable to start with one and work the way up.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 7, 2021 at 21:01
  • @AlBerko The point is that Avraham felt he needed to startwith enough for Hashem to give a positive answer. It would not be good to get negative answers in the beginning. Also, there are those who say that the 50 first question was to save all the cities. The lower numbers were to save some of the cities. Dec 3, 2021 at 3:04
  • can't say I'm sure who Maurice is...
    – Hershy S.
    Dec 3, 2021 at 5:09
  • 1
    @heshy Maurice Mizrahi asked the question that Al quoted. He's pretty active on the site.
    – Yehuda
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


I only have the beginning of an aswer without a reason why. In Bereishis Rabbah 49:12 it writes:

אוּלַי יַחְסְרוּן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם חֲמִשָּׁה (בראשית יח, כח), אָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּא בַּר אַבָּא בִּקֵּשׁ אַבְרָהָם לֵירֵד לוֹ מֵחֲמִשִּׁים לַחֲמִשָּׁה, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חֲזֹר בְּךָ לְמַפְרֵעַ

"What if the fifty innocent should lack five? (Bereishis 18:28) - Rabbi Chiya the son of Abbah said, Avraham wanted to jump from fifty to five. Hashem said to him, "Go back and count down more gradually"

As the Peirush Maharzu explains the Midrash:

וזהו חזור בך למפרע ולך כסדר לפחות מעט מעט - i.e. Hashem wanted to go through the process of asking slowly, point by point.

  • For the sake of the conversation, you mean.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 7, 2020 at 23:35
  • As I said, I'm not sure completely why it had to be done, but the Midrash clearly identifies the need for him to go through the process of quoting blocks of numbers and not jumping to an immediate end point. Perhaps others can provide an explanation of this Midrash?
    – Dov
    Nov 7, 2020 at 23:37
  • A couple of the mefarshim there (such as Etz Yosef) do say that Hashem wanted to hear more from Avraham (ורק מפני שרצון הקב"ה היה לדבר עמו עוד) - for the sake of the conversation, as @AlBerko put it. Could also be that Hashem wanted to see whether Avraham would just give up partway through, or take his time pleading for them (and in fact Rashi to 19:1 mentions that Avraham's debate with Hashem took the rest of the afternoon).
    – Meir
    Nov 8, 2020 at 17:06

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