So Abraham is sitting in front of his tent. It was “in the heat of the day,” so maybe he was just enjoying the sun and snoozing.
Along come three men. (One of them is God!) Abraham sees them and immediately offers them some water and a bit of bread. But what actually happens? Abraham runs to his wife and tells her to bake some cakes out of her best flour! He runs to his servant and tells him to kill a young, tender ox, and he himself fetches some cream for the visitors.
“Where is Sarah your wife?” ask the three men. “She is going to have a son!”
Sarah hears this. “A baby!” she giggles, “I’m an old lady!” But God says “Is anything beyond God?” and Sarah gets scared and stops laughing.
Next, the two people with God go off towards Sodom and Gomorrah and God changes the subject. God tells Abraham about the mess in those cities – how heavily their sins weigh. God tells Abraham that God is going to go down there and check them out, and if what God has heard about them is true – they’re toast!
“But will you sweep them all away if there are fifty innocent people among them?” asks Abraham.
No, says God. “I will bear with the whole place for their sake.”
Then Abraham starts to bargain. What if there are forty-five innocent people? God agrees not to bring ruin. What if there are forty? What if there are thirty? What about twenty? In each case, God agrees to spare the cities for the sake of the innocent.
Finally, Abraham says “Maybe there will only be ten.”
Okay, says God. I’ll spare them for the sake of the ten.
And this, say some scholars, is why you need ten people for a minyan.
Food for Thought
Why do you think Abraham is willing to plead for the lives of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, yet, later on, he says not a word when God tells him to sacrifice Isaac?