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Someone in my synagogue asked today as follows:

Rashi notes (Vayera 18:2, q.v.) that three angels visited Avraham's tent: one was assigned to inform Sara [of her impending pregnancy], one to overturn S'dom, and one to heal Avraham [after his circumcision] and save Lot from S'dom. He further notes (18:33) that the one assigned to inform Sara was not needed afterward, so did not go with the other two angels to S'dom.

Why, then, did the one assigned to overturn S'dom, who (seemingly) was not needed at Avraham's tent, go there?

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The final decree on S'dom was not made until they visited Avraham and Sarah. Their behavior sealed the doom of S'dom. Had Avraham not received them as he did, there would have been an argument not to destroy S'dom.

As the OP cited Rashi Vayeirah 18:2

One to bring the news [of Isaac’s birth] to Sarah, and one to overturn Sodom, and one to heal Abraham, for one angel does not perform two errands (Gen. Rabbah 50:2).

This is based on the various meforshim on Vayeirah 18:17 and Vayeirah 18:21

Also as Rav Hirsch says in Vayeirah 18:20-21

That the judgement about to be passed on S'dom was held up until the judge Himself had investigated the matter and determined that the behavior was sufficiently egregious as to require complete destruction as a punishment. Part of the investigation was the witnessing (by the mal'ach) of the behavior of Avraham. This showed that there existed an example of proper behavior and an ideal towards which others would have to strive.

Indeed, we see that Lot even in S'dom maintained a standard of behavior that could have saved the rest of the city had they learned from it.

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+100

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein raised this point in a shiur of his and answered that we find instances where angels keep to their duty, but utilize some wiggle room, such as Gabriel who had coals he was supposed to destroy Klal Yisroel, but handed them off to an intermediary angel, thereby cooling them off a bit, in order to spare us from destruction. Hashem did not want something like that to happen by Sdom. He wanted the angel to realize how bad they were and destroy them completely, so he had him stop off by Abraham the Tzadik first so he could see the difference.

  • Maybe we could add, that if the angel had not shown himself to Abraham, Hashem's decree would not have seemed completely sealed and ready. Now that Abraham also saw the destroying angel actually on the way, he was warned as defense attorney, that he needed to arouse the greatest prayer possible. – David Kenner Nov 1 '15 at 20:09
  • That's an interesting thought. It actually seems like a good answer of it's own accord. – user6591 Nov 1 '15 at 20:12
  • TY, feel free to pass it on too. As long as I am not there when you do say it over, my ego won't be too inflated if I am mentioned with R' DF :) – David Kenner Nov 1 '15 at 20:15
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    @msh210 The gemara is Yoma 77a. It's slightly different than I wrote here. As far as a source for Reb Dovid, sometimes he says his sources, sometimes not. Sometimes they are his own chidushim. He leaves you guessing. – user6591 Nov 2 '15 at 13:28
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    @msh210 אמר לו הקב''ה למיכאל מיכאל סרחה אומתך אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם דיו לטובים שבהם אמר לו אני שורף אותם ולטובים שבהם מיד {יחזקאל י-ב} ויאמר (לאיש) לבוש הבדים ויאמר בוא אל בינות לגלגל אל תחת לכרוב ומלא חפניך גחלי אש מבינות לכרובים וזרוק על העיר ויבא לעיני מיד {יחזקאל י-ז} וישלח הכרוב את ידו מבינות לכרובים אל האש אשר בינות הכרובים וישא ויתן אל חפני לבוש הבדים ויקח ויצא אמר רב חנא בר ביזנא אמר ר' שמעון חסידא אילמלא לא נצטננו גחלים מידו של כרוב לידו של גבריאל לא נשתיירו משונאיהן של ישראל שריד ופליט – user6591 Nov 2 '15 at 13:31
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This is an answer that I heard from one of my Rabbeim. It is from the Sefer Chidushei HaRim, on Bereishis 18:9. While he gives the basic pshat mentioned below, he does not quote every source that I have.


Ultimately the Davidic dynasty comes from Rus, who, in turn, came from Moav, Lot’s son by his eldest daughter. As Moav was only born after Lot was rescued from Sedom, the only reason Lot was able to be saved was because he would go on to be the ancestor of David HaMelech. (In the words of the Midrash1, “‘I have found my servant David.’2 Where did I find him? In Sedom.”)3

But all would be for naught if Moav’s descendant Rus would be unable to marry Boaz. In order for Lot to be able to father Mashiach, Rus needs to be able to marry into Klal Yisrael.

The passuk says,4 “A Moavite and Amonite may not marry into the populace.” In order that Rus be able to marry Boaz, the exposition5 “Moavite and not Moavitess; Amonite and not Amonitess” must be valid. But as Doeg challenged,6 why don’t we make the same exposition of “Egyptian and not Egyptianess”?

To that the Gemara responds7 based on the following verse. Why may a Moavite and Amonite not enter the populace? “Because they did not greet you with bread and water.”8 It’s not tznius for women to go out and greet men with food and water. So why did the women not greet the women? The Gemara answers9 that it’s not tznius for women to be doing that at all. What is its source? Well, one source is from Tehillim 45:14. But the other source it brings is from our very story - “And they said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘She is in the tent.’”10 As Rashi to that verse explains, the Malachim wanted to know why Sarah wasn’t out with Avraham, and Avraham responded that she is a tzanu’ah.

Why do the Malachim need to know this information?

If Rus can’t marry into the congregation, Lot can’t be saved. The Malach that was to destroy Sedom needed Lot to leave before he could do anything.11 Therefore, Gavriel needed to know whether he should wait for Lot to leave before overturning the city. But since he could only be saved on account of Rus, he needed to know the answer to the critical question: where is Sarah your wife? Are women tzenu’os, and therefore the women would not greet the women either, or are they not tzenu’os, and therefore Rus is included in the ban on Moavim? With the answer in hand, the Malachim went to Sedom to save Lot before overturning the city.


1Bereishis Rabbah 41:4

2Tehillim 89:21

3The Gemara in Yevamos 77a says similarly, comparing “found” in this verse to “found” in Bereishis 19:15 about Lot’s daughters. I only picked the Midrash because it makes the point more explicitly.

4Devarim 23:4

5Yevamos 86b

6Ibid.

7Ibid.

8Devarim 23:5

9Yevamos 87a

10Bereishis 18:9

11See Rashi to Bereishis 19:16, that the Malach in charge of destroying Sedom helped take Lot out of the city. The Gur Aryeh’s second understanding of this Rashi is in line with my point above.

  • Thank you. Your answer is more along the lines of drush. the first answer is more simple pshat. I upvoted your answer, but accepted his as more helpful to me. Keep up your great work! – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 13 '18 at 21:49
  • I found the source of your answer! It's from the Chidushei HaRim. (I edited it into your answer already). – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 13 '18 at 21:59
  • Baruch atah laShamayim shehechezarta aveidasi! Thank you so much for providing a source. You’re correct that it’s not exactly the simplest understanding. Where does the Rim say this? – DonielF Jun 13 '18 at 22:06
  • HERE IT IS: פרשת וירא ד"ה ויאמר אליו איה שרה אשתך. But I don't see where he says that thats why the 3rd Malach went to Avrahm. – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 13 '18 at 22:35
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore The article you link quotes him as being in בבא מציעא, so I surmise that it’s on 87b, where it lists the three angels. I don’t have a copy of the Rim on Bava Metzi’a so I can’t look it up. – DonielF Jun 13 '18 at 22:57
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Maharal in Gur Aryeh (18:2) writes that the a job of the angel who was going to destroy Sdom was intertwined with the job of the angel who would save Lot and they therefore had to go together. Since the angel that saved Lot was also sent to heal Avraham, the angel of destruction had to come along.

Another explanation: A close reading of the verses shows that Hashem informed Avraham of the destruction of Sodom before the Angels left Avraham's presence.

Verse 16 tells us that the angels left and Avraham accompanied them but they do not actually leave until verse 22. In between, Avraham is informed of the destruction. It may be that this message was given by the angel, since part of the job of destroying Sdom was to first inform Avraham and give him a chance to intervene.

וַיָּקֻ֤מוּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיַּשְׁקִ֖פוּ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י סְדֹ֑ם וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הֹלֵ֥ךְ עִמָּ֖ם לְשַׁלְּחָֽם: (יז) וַֽיקֹוָ֖ק אָמָ֑ר הַֽמְכַסֶּ֤ה אֲנִי֙ מֵֽאַבְרָהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֲנִ֥י עֹשֶֽׂה: (יח) וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ: (יט) כִּ֣י יְדַעְתִּ֗יו לְמַעַן֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְצַוֶּ֜ה אֶת־בָּנָ֤יו וְאֶת־בֵּיתוֹ֙ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְשָֽׁמְרוּ֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְקֹוָ֔ק לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת צְדָקָ֖ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט לְמַ֗עַן הָבִ֤יא יְקֹוָק֙ עַל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֖ר עָלָֽיו: (כ) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְקֹוָ֔ק זַעֲקַ֛ת סְדֹ֥ם וַעֲמֹרָ֖ה כִּי־רָ֑בָּה וְחַ֨טָּאתָ֔ם כִּ֥י כָבְדָ֖ה מְאֹֽד: (כא) אֵֽרֲדָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה הַכְּצַעֲקָתָ֛הּ הַבָּ֥אָה אֵלַ֖י עָשׂ֣וּ׀ כָּלָ֑ה וְאִם־לֹ֖א אֵדָֽעָה: (כב) וַיִּפְנ֤וּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ סְדֹ֑מָה וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם עוֹדֶ֥נּוּ עֹמֵ֖ד לִפְנֵ֥י יְקֹוָֽק:

  • I think your answer is supported by Rashi on (Gen. 18:33) and Abraham returned to his place: The Judge left, the defender left, and the prosecutor is accusing. Therefore: “And the two angels came to Sodom,” to destroy (Gen. Rabbah 49:14). One to destroy Sodom and one to save Lot, and he [the latter] is the same one who came to heal Abraham, but the third one, who came to announce [Isaac’s birth] to Sarah, since he had performed his mission, he departed (Tan. Vayera 8). This implies that the angels had to wait for Avraham's response and "permission" to destroy Sedom. – Benyomin Walters Oct 24 '18 at 18:59
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The angels appeared to Avraham in the form of wayfarers. According to the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 26:7) it is improper for a wayfarer to travel with fewer than two companions.

א"ר איבו למדתך תורה דרך ארץ שלא יהא אדם יוצא לדרך בפחות משנים שאם יצא סופו נעשה עבד לעבדו דא"ר איבו שני בני אדם נהגו בדרך ארץ אברהם ושאול באברהם מהו אומר וישכם אברהם בבקר ויקח את שני נעריו עמו ומי היו ישמעאל ואליעזר בשאול מהו אומר וילך הוא ושני אנשים עמו ומי היו אבנר ועמשא

The angel for destroying Sodom was the third person. We can see from a couple of Rashi's other comments to this story that the angels were "playing the part" of regular guests.

In 18:8 Rashi explains that they appeared to eat, from which we derive that one should not deviate from the custom:

נראו כמי שאכלו מכאן שלא ישנה אדם מן המנהג

In 18:9 Rashi explains that they asked Sarah about Avraham as well, from which we derive that one should ask the host about the hostess and the hostess about the host:

שאף לשרה שאלו איוא אברהם לימדנו שישאל אדם באכסניא שלו לאיש על האשה ולאשה על האיש

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