After all of Abraham's wondorous prayers to Hashem to save Sodom the posuk says (י״ח:לג):

וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ יְהוָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר כִּלָּ֔ה לְדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְאַבְרָהָ֖ם שָׁ֥ב לִמְקֹמֽוֹ

God 'went' when he had finished speaking to Avrohom and Avrohom returned to his place.

Rashi says:

ואברהם שב למקומו. נִסְתַּלֵּק הַדַּיָּן נִסְתַּלֵּק הַסָּנֵגוֹר, וְהַקָּטֵיגוֹר מְקַטְרֵג וּלְפִיכָךְ וַיָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִים סְדֹמָה, לְהַשְׁחִית

Avrohom returned to his place - The Judge departed, the defender departed so the accuser accused. Therefore "The two angels came to Sodom" - to destroy.

In short, Avrohom's prayers did not save Sodom.

Yet a bit later the posuk says (י״ט:כ & י״ט:כא):

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹט אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אַל־נָ֖א אֲדֹנָֽי...הִנֵּה־נָ֠א הָעִ֨יר הַזֹּ֧את קְרֹבָ֛ה לָנ֥וּס שָׁ֖מָּה וְהִ֣יא מִצְעָ֑ר אִמָּלְטָ֨ה נָּ֜א שָׁ֗מָּה הֲלֹ֥א מִצְעָ֛ר הִ֖וא וּתְחִ֥י נַפְשִֽׁי

And Lot said: "Please no! My Master behold this city is near to flee there and it is small. Let me flee there. Is it not small! and my soul shall live."

Hashem replied:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו הִנֵּה֙ נָשָׂ֣אתִי פָנֶ֔יךָ גַּ֖ם לַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְבִלְתִּ֛י הָפְכִּ֥י אֶת־הָעִ֖יר אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּֽרְתָּ׃

And He said to him:"Behold I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, not to destroy the city, as you have spoken"

Is this not a wonder!? Lot the רשע who was ready to live in the immoral city of Sodom, ready to give up his own daughters to strangers to abuse them, his תפילות were answered, yet the holy אברהם אבינו -צדיק's תפילות did not cause Hashem to save Sodom?!

  • 2
    I don’t have a source for this, but there’s a difference between the approach of Avraham and that of Lot. Avraham specifically said he was addressing the attribute of fair and just judgement. For that he needed to find 10 tzaddikim in the city. He couldn’t, so the prosecution won. It was a court case. Lot used the attribute of mercy, to save his life. For whatever reason, Avraham didn’t feel he could ask for mercy for such wicked people and instead tried judgement.
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 19:01
  • I found the Sforno (19:27) mentions that Avraham returned the next day to daven for mercy after seeing that his prayers for just judgement weren’t sufficient. It was then that he saw he was too late. Furthermore, I found the Orach Chaim says that Lot was asking the Angel himself, since this city was not fully sinful, they were only caught up with the rest under the rule of “reshus lmashchis” and so he asked the Angel to spare it in his own right. Avraham was not using that mechanism at all.
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 2:07

1 Answer 1


Lot did not pray to save Sodom. He only prayed to be allowed to take refuge in צער. The fact that every other city in the area was destroyed did not bother him.

Rav Hirsch translates מִצְעָ֑ר as puny. That is, he is saying that this city is so insignificant that it should be regarded as only saving his life and he has indeed lost all of his possessions. As Lot says in the previous verse (19:19)

Behold now, Your servant has found favor in Your eyes, and You have increased Your kindness, which You have done with me, to sustain my soul. But I cannot flee to the mountain, lest the evil overtake me, and I die.

As Rav Hirsch explains:

I do not deserve to be saved at all, and that you save my life is already a great favor on Your part, but if it is only to be achieved by unbroken flight right into the mountains, the journey itself will kill me.

Indeed he does not pray for the salvation of the city, but begs for his own life because the city itself is so insignificant that even allowing him to stay there would be as if everything had been destroyed.

He repeatedly dwells on the fact that the city is מִצְעָ֑ר. The word, by its form, is not an adjective but a noun. Not :it is small", but, "it is a petty thing", tiny of little importance, offering not wealth or comfort. By the prohibition to look back Lot recognized that the loss of all his possessions had been deliberately imposed upon him, it was intended that he should escape with his bare life and leave everything behind him. But he thinks that this city offers so little, is such a mean little place, that if I am allowed to stay there, after the luxury of Sodom, it can still be considered that my life, and my life only, has been saved.

  • Thank you for your answer. I am still confused though: Why did the fact that it was so small and of such little importance not help in Avrohom's prayer?
    – Simcha
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 20:33
  • @Simcha Really it was only through the merit of Avraham that Lot even was spared, so in a sense Avraham’s prayer did work to save the city of Tzo’ar.
    – ezra
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 21:55
  • @Simcha Avraham attempted to save the 5 cities completely. There are those who explain that by dropping the numbers, he attempted to save individual cities. Lot on the other hand did not attempt to save the city, but attempted to save his own life. The fact is that the city was destroyed n Lot panicked and fled from there. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 23:59

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