In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, we read about three angels coming to Avraham. The Pasuk says, וישא עניו וירא והנה שלשה אנשים נצבים עליו, “And [Avraham] raised his eyes and he saw, behold, there were three men standing before him” (Bereishit 18:2). The angels, here referred to as אנשים, men, come and tell Avraham that Sarah would give birth. One of the angels leaves, and the Torah then says, ויבאו שני המלאכים סדמה, “The two angels came to Sedom” (19:1). The two angels came to Sedom, whereas men appeared to Avraham. Why does the Torah call the angels אנשים at first and then מלאכים?
Chazal explain that they are first called אנשים because at first they did nothing miraculous. The angels simply told Avraham that Sarah would give birth to a son. In Sedom, however, the angels performed deeds beyond the capability of mortal men. Therefore, the Torah describes them as מלאכים in Sedom.
Reish Lakish suggests that these angels appeared as men, or equals, to Avraham, who was on such a high level. To the people of Sedom, who were on a very low level, however, the angels were awesome and were therefore referred to as מלאכים (Bereishit Rabbah 83).
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin was troubled by this concept. How could the people of Sedom see Kedusha that Avraham could not? He answers that Hashem wanted the citizens of Sedom to see these angels as מלאכים. By doing so, Hashem gave Sedom a chance to do Teshuva before He wiped them out. He even made His test easier for them: although the angels came בערב, in the evening, when it is dark and the angels could have snuck into someone’s house without the town members’ knowledge, everyone knew that they had come because the angels asked everyone to host them.
This shows us how bad the people of Sedom were. They saw the angels of Hashem in their town, and nobody invited them to stay for the night. Normal people would fight for the privilege of housing such guests!
For Lot, however, Hashem’s final test worked. He had just been appointed the new chief justice of Sedom (Bereishit Rabbah 40) and was therefore sitting by the gate of the city. Being the city’s judge, he would have abided by Sedom’s corrupt code of law and treated the angels as any other guests. However, Lot was reminded of Avraham’s hospitality and graciously invited the angels in. Lot was inspired by Avraham’s hospitality. Avraham invited those same angels into his home, although he thought that they were only men.
There are many stories about Tzaddikim going out of their way to perform Mitzvot, even when doing so is difficult. We must learn from Lot that we should be inspired by these Tzaddikim, and at the least we should not pass up the easy Mitzvot that come to our doors.