By Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 98 NUMBER 4
November 7, 2020
CHESHVAN 19, 5781
Candlelighting Time 4:32 PM
Hashem tested Avrohom ten times to enhance his latent potential for greatness. He surpassed all of them. The final and most difficult ordeal was the “Binding of Yitzchok”. He was commanded to sacrifice his son as an offering. Even though he was previously promised that his legacy would endure, his son would continue his mission, this new directive apparently superseded the first and seemingly contradicted it. And that was precisely the challenge that Avrohom encountered, he needed to concentrate on the present mission despite his misgivings that Hashem had promised him that Yitzchok would succeed him to promote the belief of Hashem. Now all his hopes seemed to disappear and were dashed since he would need to offer him on the altar to Hashem! Rabbeinu Bachya indeed explains that Avrohom had the more difficult adversity as opposed to Yitzchok and since he successfully passed this ordeal Hashem ‘loved’ him’! Subsequently, after binding Yitzchok and preparing him to be sacrificed, the angel informed him that he did not need to actually slaughter his son and his unsurpassed idealism rooted in his faith in Hashem ultimately inspired him to be fully focused as though he had actually sacrificed Yitzchok. Avrohom was so desirous to offer Yitzchok that even when the ram was substituted in his stead, every step of its sacrificial process was transposed as though he was truly performing the sacrifice with Yitzchok! We, his descendants, are the beneficiaries of Avrohom’s incredibly magnanimous attitude. Especially on the holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the ashes of Yitzchok are viewed by Hashem as a saving grace for our nation.
The Shelah, an early 16th century mystic, questions the achievement of this event because we find in the Mikdrash that both Avrohom and Yitzchok were extremely upset to truly execute this command. Indeed, they prayed that somehow Avrohom would not be required to slaughter Yitzchok. Seemingly, Avrohom only begrudgingly continued upon this mission wrought with much despair and gloom.
He answers with a beautiful insight into the mindset of Avrohom. Of course, Avrohom intended to pursue Hashem’s command without reservation, however, the opportunity to perhaps convince himself that what he was doing was not justified only increased and compounded his actual determination to indeed fulfill Hashem’s command to the fullest despite the accompanying potential negativity.
The everlasting impact of this episode is captured in the blessing given to Avrohom by the angel that his descendants will procure the gates of their enemies. Nachmonides explains that this was a guarantee that we would never lose favor in the eyes of Hashem and fall prey to the nations of the world, essentially certifying our eventual deliverance from exile to redemption.
The magnitude of this incident is contained in the opening words of this blessing that Hashem will increase Avrohom’s descendants like the stars of the heavens. Netziv understands this as a reference to the greatness of our spiritual capacity. The significance of total selflessness, the aspiration to give one’s life for Hashem infused into the very essence of our being, our ongoing gallantry to give our lives for the sake of Hashem. And this heroic nature of our people is rooted in this herculean dedication to Hashem demonstrated by our forefathers.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Immediately after Sara denied that she scoffed at the prediction that she would have a child, the angels left. They are not able to exist even for a moment where falsehood is present.