In the parasha Hashem sends three angels to visit Avraham Avinu who was recovering from his Brit Mila. The main purpose of their visit was Bikur Cholim, and the Tora describes the visit in detail. At the end of their visit the angels stood up, preparing themselves to leave, and it seems as though the story will now move forward. But, suddenly, Hashem says something: !המכסה אני מאברהם?. Meaning, I shouldn’t hide my plans from Avraham.
It seems that Hashem was planning to destroy the city of Sdom because of the bad behavior of its residents. We can assume he considered it thoroughly, so why did he suddenly decide to involve Avraham in this decision? The Torah gives us an explanation, saying that Avraham is intended to become a great nation. But that still doesn’t really explain this odd conversation. Avraham being a great nation in the future isn’t related at all to the moral situation of the area of Sdom Ve’Amora.
The famous rebbe from Gur, השפת אמת, points out that this conversation happened only after Avraham had his Brit Mila, meaning that that was crucial for this conversation to occur.
The Brit Mila, according to the שפת אמת , is an act of exposing a deeper level of life. By performing this mitzvah on his own body, Avraham is unveiling the idea of man being able to improve and take positive action in the world. Avraham is pushing the world forward by this act, showing us the way to get more involved and more truthful in our lives. Not taking the world at face value, but realizing that we have an obligation to constantly find ways to spread moral and spiritual values in the world.
That is why Hashem felt obligated to consult with Avraham before destroying Sdom. Avraham is the human being who symbolizes, more than any other, the ideal of man improving and making progress. He is the one who dedicated his life to educate mankind about faith and spiritual acts, and therefore he is the only one who can speak in favor of the people of Sdom. He is the only one capable of teaching others how to fix mistakes and improve a whole culture, since he had actually done it. Perhaps he would be able to do it once again.
This insight can even explain Avraham Avinu’s main argument in favor of the people of Sdom. Avraham starts to negotiate about the number of Tzadikim needed to be found there in order for Hashem to change his mind, and this sounds very weird. Why should the presence of Tzadikim make any difference?
But, after what we said before it seems much more reasonable. The presence of Tzadikim in the city gives the community an opportunity to imagine improvement. Having a tzadik in the city can show others the right path. Avraham wasn’t seeking concessions. He understood that Hashem demands from us moral and spiritual beliefs, and the only way to achieve that is to change their way of life in that direction.