In Parashat VaYeira, Hashem destroys the wicked city of Sedom. However, we do not see Him warn the people beforehand. Why does Hashem not send a messenger to tell the people of Sedom to do Teshuvah? Why, instead, does He annihilate them without any prior warning?
In Sefer Yonah, Hashem wishes to destroy the wicked city of Ninveih. He sends Yonah to warn the people of Ninveih that they will be destroyed, so that they will do Teshuvah and turn from their evil ways. They heed this warning, and Hashem does not destroy the city. Why not grant the people of Sedom the same opportunity?
Rav Yosef Schwab suggests that Hashem does not warn the people of Sedom since they did not need a formal warning. They already had an unspoken warning: Avraham, living right near them. They should have learned how to behave from Avraham, and emulated his Chesed and other Midot Tovot. And they should have realized that they would be punished for not acting in accordance with what Hashem wanted. This was their warning.
The Chafeitz Chaim writes that the gravest sin the people of Sedom committed was never taking care of the poor people in their community. Rabbeinu Yonah adds that the people of Sedom not only didn’t care for the poor, but also completely ignored those who went out on the streets begging for food and money. The Chafeitz Chaim proposes that we see from the actions of the people of Sedom that a community that does not take care of its poor members deserves complete destruction. To save themselves, the people of Sedom did not need to listen to a lecture from a Navi. All they had to do was observe Avraham’s actions and learn from him. Avraham’s actions spoke much louder than words of warning.
We see a similar situation in Parashat Noach. Hashem does not send a Navi to provide a specific warning to the people of the world before unleashing the Mabul. Noach’s actions acted as the warning. Chazal teach that it took Noach 120 years to complete the Teivah. Such a monumental undertaking should not have gone unnoticed. The people should have seen Noach and learned from his actions how to behave. Noach was Hashem’s warning to the people to do Teshuvah.
Ramban poses an obvious question: Why did Sedom deserve utter destruction, when it is very likely that many cities all over the world were performing similar sins? Ramban writes that there certainly were other cities with people who were worshipping idols, stealing, and neglecting the poor. However, since Sedom was in Eretz Israel, the holiest place on earth, Hashem held it to a much higher standard.
In life, we do not always need someone to tell us what to do and what not to do. We do not always require a personal warning. Rather, we should always surround ourselves with people who will influence us to follow the ways of Hashem. They will act as our warning.