The ultimate test of our forefather Avraham’s devotion to G-d was when G-d appeared to him and instructed him to offer his son on an altar.
The Torah describes how Avraham swiftly set out on the journey from Be’er Sheva to the area of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, traveling with his son Yitzchok, Yishmael and his servant Eliezer.
Although it was a rather short distance, the Torah tells us it took three days until they arrived. What caused the delay? Our Sages tell us that the Satan, realizing the everlasting spiritual impact this event would produce, presented various obstacles during their trip in order to buy time so that Avraham might reconsider going forward with the deed.
The Medrash relates that Satan first appeared to Avraham as a wise old man and then he appeared as a young man, each tried casting doubt in Avraham’s determination to perform the deed. Yet Avraham stood firm.
Finally, Satan presented a wide river to stop him from advancing. This did not deter Avraham. He went right in, and when the waters reached his neck and he feared drowning, Avraham lifted his eyes to the Heavens and called out to the Almighty, “You entrusted me to promote Your existence in the world, and now I am ready to do Your will by offering my son Yitzchok to You. If Yitzchok or I drown, who will fulfill Your Will and advance the belief in You?” The Medrash continues that at that point G-d dried up the river, and Avraham readily reached the Mount. He proceeded to build an altar and bound Yitzchok to it and was ready to slaughter his son.
At the last possible moment, the Torah tells us that an angel called out to Avraham from the Heavens and told him to stop and not offer his son.
During a zoom class this week, a local participant, Neil Weinberg, asked the following; “Why is it that an angel called out from the Heavens to tell Avraham to stop, and not G-d Himself – who had initially instructed him to do the deed?” Good question!
I did not have an answer, and I said I’ll do some research. Later that day, I was on the phone with my father Rabbi Boruch Saks, and I shared Neil’s question with him. He told me that originally when G-d instructed Avraham, He told him to “Raise his son upon the Altar.” Avraham understood it to mean to slaughter his son; however, G-d did not instruct him to slaughter him.
When Avraham fulfilled what G-d had instructed him to do, by binding Yitzchok to the Altar, it was not imperative for G-d to tell him to stop the slaughtering of his son, since that was not the intent of His original instruction. Additionally, if G-d would have told him to halt, it would have given the appearance that He reneged on His original command. Therefore, an angel was commissioned to call to Avraham to stop.
The question is which angel called out to Avraham? Commentaries say that it was the Angel Michael. The Chidah shares with us something fascinating: When the angel called out to Avraham to tell him to stop, he continued by saying, “Now I know that you are a truly G-d fearing person – and you did not withhold your son – from me.” The question asked is what did the angel mean – from me?
Says the Chidah, every Mitzvah that one performs creates an angel above. The construction and completeness of the angel is dependent upon one’s motivation, intent and the way they perform the Mitzvah. The purer one’s intent while performing the Mitzvah creates a more complete angel.
The angel that called out to Avraham was the angel that was created through Avraham’s total devotion to perform this most challenging command of offering his son. The angel said, “I’m looking at myself and I see that I am created in the highest level that a Mitzvah can be observed – and through it I recognize that your devotion was on the highest level of purity.”
Just as the angel created by Avraham through his pure deed was on the highest level and was thus able to help out Avraham and save Yitzchok in the most sensitive and needed time, so too, the vitality and strength of the angels that we create through our Mitzvos and good deeds are dependent upon our devotion, sincerity and positive attitude, which can influence their efficacy to help us out when we need it most!