When Hashem was preparing to eradicate Sedom, He made a decision to inform Avraham of His plans. He told Avraham that they were an appalling and corrupt people and that the only way to put a stop to it was to obliterate the entire city. Avraham acted as a defender for Sedom and asked Hashem if he woould spare the city’s destruction should he find fifty righteous people within. Hashem answered that he would, and as we saw from the pasukim fifty righteous individuals were not found. He then proceeded to inquire about forty five people and then forty and then thirty and twenty and ten etc…
There seems to be a discrepancy in the loshon that is used in the pasuk. When Avraham asked Hashem to save Sedom should He find either forty or thirty tzadikim, the pasuk used a loshon of ‘lo e’eseh’, I will not do anything. Why? Because the zechusim of fifty tzadikim was significant enough to hold back the wrath of Hashem. But when Avraham asked Hashem if He can find either twenty or ten people the pasuk says ‘lo ashchis’, I will not destroy. That implied that there would be some type of calamity but that Hashem will not completely wipe out the city. This was due to the fact that there was not a significant amount of tzadikim there to hold back Hashems wrath. However, by forty five people the pasuk used the same loshon of ‘lo ashchis’, I will not destroy, that was used by twenty or thirty people. Given the amount of tzadikim there, shouldn’t the pasuk have used the loshon of ‘lo e’eseh’, I will not do anything, just as it used it by forty and thirty?
The Meshech Chochma answers with a yesod for us all to learn from.
In Pirkei Avos it says ‘know who will you stand before and before whom you will give a DIN and CHESHBON’. What are these two things? Din, as we know, is judgment. What is cheshbon? The GR“A writes that cheshbon is that you get punished not only for the misdeed you committed but also for the mitzvah you could’ve done and did not carry out. These are the two elements in every judgment. One is that you did the actual misdeed and the second is that you did not do a mitzvah.
Now make the following computation. Avraham says ‘maybe there are forty five tzadikim in Sedom…’ forty five divided by five, for the five cities within Sedom, comes out that there are nine righteous people for each of the five cities. Says the Meschech Chochma, if that scenario is true-that there were only nine tzadikim in every city-then they were only one short. Every person, besides those nine, could have been the tenth man had they applied themselves. Becoming the tenth tzaddik, could have saved an entire city. Yet, nobody moved and no one changed! At forty five people the punishment was more severe, because the Ribono Shel Olam took into consideration that each person had the responsibility to be the tenth tzaddik. From the fact of reality that they didn’t, their penalty was much greater. If there were forty people and each city only had eight tzadikim then people would be able to say even if I’m the ninth, how do I know there will be a tenth? But by nine tzadikim no one felt the urge and desire to improve themselves and to save the city. Therefore, their punishment was greater.
Every person has to understand that what they do can affect more people than they think. If someone has the opportunity to participate in the enhancement of kovod shem shomayim and its attainable, yet he decided to pass on it, that creates destruction. They had nine people in the city! There should have been one person-just one- who felt a responsibility to be the tenth to be mekadesh shem shomayim!
May we all be zoche to not only realize when opportunities are knocking at our door but to also grab and act on them; and IY”H by doing so we can prevent future misfortune in the world.