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Two Minutes of Torah: Vayera - Bargaining with God

Whenever I go to the shouk , the market in Jerusalem, I always get very nervous.  My nerves come from the fact that I know that I really should be prepared to negotiate to get the best price possible with some of the market’s stall holders, but I hate to negotiate.  I get really nervous when I have to start bargaining with these people because I don’t want to cause offense by offering too low a price, but at the same time, I don’t want to be taken for a ride and pay too high a price.  Ultimately I’m convinced that I never get a good deal when I’m in the market and I always leave that bit disappointed with how things went.  And yet, each and every trip, I keep returning. 

The market is a place where we’re expected to negotiate and bargain.  We don’t often think about negotiating or bargaining with God because after all who would have the nerve to stand before God and dare to negotiate or bargain with God.  And, yet, in this week’s Torah portion, that is exactly what Abraham does.  Standing up to God and negotiating. 

God decides that God has to tell Abraham about what is intended for Sodom and Gomorrah .  The fact that God intends to destroy these evil, wicked cities, and Abraham, in front of God says, will you sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?  And, then Abraham asks, what if there are 50 innocent people in the city.  Surely then you should spare the city for those 50 and God agrees.  And, then Abraham goes from 50 and says what if there are 45? And God agrees.  And then he says, what if there were 40?  Moving to 30, to 20, till eventually Abraham and God agree that if there are 10 righteous people in the city they will be spared. 

Of course we know that there were not 10 righteous people and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.  And, yet we have this wonderful story where Abraham has the audacity to negotiate with God.   And Abraham is a successful negotiator, getting God down to 10 righteous people in the city.

We might wonder how Abraham dared to do this, how Abraham had the chutzpah to stand before God.  And, yet only last week, God said to Abraham, you shall be a blessing and through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  Clearly Abraham took this call very seriously and recognized that part of being a blessing meant standing up before God and challenging God with the hope of sparing the righteous who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah.

In this negotiation, Abraham stands as a wonderful example of how we must always be willing to do the right thing, even if that sometimes means bargaining with God.

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