This week’s Parshah, Parshas Vayeira, tells the story of Akeidas Yitzchak, when Avraham brought Yitzchak up on Har Hamoriah to be a korban to Hashem. This act showed a tremendous amount of faith in Hashem by both Avraham and Yitzchak. The merit that they both received from their roles in this act has been a source of protection and reward for the Jewish nation throughout the generations and continues until today.
The story begins when Hashem comes to Avraham and tells him, “וַיֹּאמֶר קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ אֶת יִצְחָק וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה” “And He said, ‘Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzchak, and go to the land of Moriah” (Bereishis 22:2). Based on the usage of the word ‘please, this appears to be, not a command, but a request. Why does Hashem have to request from Avraham to pass this test? And how come He didn’t do this by any of the previous times He tested Avraham? Rashi explains very interestingly; “אמר לו בבקשה ממך עמוד לי בזה הנסיון שלא יאמרו הראשונות לה היה בהן ממש” “He (God) said, ‘I beg of you, pass this test for Me, so that people should not say that the first [tests] had no substance” (Ibid: Rashi).
This idea seems strange. Chazal tell us that Hashem gave Avraham ten tests to try his faith, and he passed each one. The Akeidah was the final test and apparently, it was the most important one. It was so important that Hashem pleaded with Avraham to pass it. How come not passing this test would have ruined Avraham’s image from all the previous ones? While the other tests were difficult, none of them compare to taking your only child, who you waited 100 years to have, and killing him! So why should people think less of Avraham for not passing this test?
On one hand, you can say that the question is the answer; people will not separate the previous nine tests from the Akeidah and therefore, Hashem has to plead with Avraham to pass this final, extremely difficult test. However, there is another message we can take out of this.
Imagine two best friends, who would do anything for each other. Let’s say one friend comes to the other and asks to borrow $10,000 that he will pay back when he can. The other friend immediately takes out the money without asking any questions and gives it to his friend. The borrower then calls the press and tells them all about his great friend and how he is saving his life. The reporter will say that’s nice and then hang up the phone, he is not that interested in this story, no matter how nice the friend seems. Now, let’s say the friend asks this best friend for a kidney. The friend agrees without any delay, and the surgery is a success. The receiver of the kidney then calls the press and tells them the story. This event is such a big deal, that everyone will be touched at the tremendous friendship these two people share, as well as how deep their relationship goes; the reporter is sure to be interested.
This is the difference between the first nine tests and the Akeidah. The first nine were tremendous acts of faith shown by Avraham, but most of them could not be seen to be anything extraordinary. The fact that Avraham left his family in Charan, that he was childless for so many years, that the king kidnapped his wife; these were all difficult challenges, but at the end of the day, you could not necessarily see that they tested Avraham’s faith; perhaps they were just bad luck! By the first nine, the only one who truly recognized the depth of Avraham’s faith was Hashem.
The Akeidah had to be different. The Kli Yakar explains that the purpose of this נסיון, this test, was to raise a נס, a banner, to the world and show everyone how great Avraham was. The ability to sacrifice your only child for the sake of Hashem was something that the entire world could understand and would appreciate how dedicated Avraham was to his faith. This is why the only time the Torah actually tells us explicitly that Hashem was testing Avraham is this one. Because this is the נסיון that will be the נס, this is the test that will show the world who Avraham is. That is why Hashem so badly wanted to be sure that Avraham would pass this test, because this time the true relationship Hashem shared with him would be known to all.
This same idea applies to us nowadays. Whenever we do mitzvos, we are broadcasting our commitment to Hashem and His Torah. Especially nowadays, this is a tremendous accomplishment! This is not only when we do mitzvos we do among non-Jews, even in our own communities, showing off our strong faith is something we should all be very proud of. But, once in a while, we are put in a situation where we have the opportunity not only to show our nation’s connection to Hashem (by doing it in front of non-Jews), but also to show our personal connection to Hashem (by doing it in front of Jews as well). Sometimes they come in public opportunities, times where we can show the globe our commitment to Hashem. But sometimes these opportunities come in everyday life as well. When we have a chance to stand up for what is right, a chance to do an uncommon mitzvah, a chance to learn Torah instead of doing something else. Acts that may appear normal, but because of the surrounding situation, they show how we, as individuals, are committed to serving Hashem. This is how we show the world our commitment.
We don’t necessarily need an Akeidah to raise our banner. Any act will do, as long as it is done right. And it is not only non-Jews who need to see this, it is more important to show our own people how we serve Hashem. We need to show how important the mitzvos are, how much we enjoy them, how we will not let anything, big or small, stand in our way of our doing what we should be doing. As long as we do act in the way Avraham did, humbly, without any expectations for personal benefit, with just complete love for Hashem. That is what the Akeidah was about and that’s why it remains a merit for Am Yisrael until this very day. May we be zoche to create our own Akeidahs, and with them, bring the Geulah we all crave.
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.
Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!