When this week’s Parsha, Vayeira, introduces the story of Sedom, it begins by describing God’s justification in involving Avraham (18:19). God explains that Avraham has been teaching his family to “keep the path of God with righteousness and justice” (18:19). How does that justify involving Avraham? Also, why would the Torah describe Avraham as keeping the path with righteousness and justice? What is the difference between the 1) path of G-d, 2) righteousness and 3) justice?
Rabbi David Fohrman helps us understand this by pointing out a parallel with the description of Gan Eden (Garden of Eden). The Torah describes the angels and a sword that was placed in front of Gan Eden to protect “the path to the tree of life” (3:24), just like our story describes Avraham’s adherence to the path of righteousness and justice. While justice is a fair way to live, Sedom proves that it’s not enough, and explains what Avraham learned from its destruction. There needs to be righteousness, a willingness to do what’s right, and an understanding of the balance between the two. In contrast, Avraham walked the path of both justice and righteousness, a dynamic exchange with God about the balance of the two, a path and process worth protecting. If we can strike a balance between justice and the right thing to do in life, we too will walk the path of the tree of life.