(Torah Portion Vayaira) Tenacity!

The greatest challenge G-d presented to our forefather Avraham was the instruction to offer his son Yitzchok as a sacrifice. We read this episode in this week’s Parsha as well as on Rosh Hashana, which is the anniversary of the event.

Try to imagine being in Avraham’s position. Avraham had promoted the monotheistic belief in G-d practically his entire life. This belief stood in stark contrast to human sacrifice which was then prevalent in pagan society.

When Avraham was 137 years old and his son Yitzchok was 37 years old G-d told Avraham to offer his son Yitzchok upon an Altar. One’s natural reaction upon hearing this would be, “Are You serious?”

But not Avraham; he was a soldier and began to prepare immediately. He could have prayed to G-d to reconsider His plan, or he could have questioned G-d saying that He promised that through Yitzchok His nation would emerge, and if Yitzchok was eliminated how would that be possible?

The Torah tells us that it took Avraham three days to reach Mount Moriah – the future site of the Temple in Jerusalem and the place G-d chose for the Altar. This trip should not have taken more than one day’s travel but our Sages tell us that the Satan – our prosecutor on High – saw the potential of Avraham’s awesome devotion to G-d and how much it would help his descendants if he followed G-d’s instruction. The Satan therefore created many obstacles to prevent Avraham for getting there.

By Human nature, when one is going to do something big or challenging and obstacles get in his way he begins to wonder if they are indeed ‘Bashert’ and perhaps the obstacles are a sign that he should not be following this path.

Additionally, the human condition is that with time, our initial excitement towards performing a deed wears off. The Satan cunningly delayed Avraham from performing this deed, hoping that with time Avraham would reconsider and not perform the deed.

All the Satan’s ploys did not work. Avraham forged ahead with the same devotion that he had at the beginning.

There were other considerations that could have gone through Avraham’s mind and stopped him from offering his son. Avraham was known as the pillar of Chesed – kindness. Avraham could have reasoned with himself, is offering my son Yitzchok an act of Chesed?
Avraham could have also questioned if he had heard the message from G-d correctly.

Avraham could have also focused on the fallout – the survivor’s guilt that he would carry all his life for taking his son’s life.

Yet Avraham, the man of complete faith and belief in G-d and His word, did not entertain any of these possibilities and considerations and carried forth with the instructions G-d gave him.

As a result of Avraham’s complete commitment to G-d, he instilled within his descendants the awesome ability to overcome the future challenges they would face. We thus have the ability to keep focused on our responsibilities and not lose our enthusiasm and passion as time goes on. Avraham’s commitment to Chesed instilled within his descendants the ability to give Tzadaka and perform Chesed in unparalleled amounts.

Avraham and Yitzchok also instilled within their descendants the ability to give up their lives for the sanctification of G-d’s Name in the most trying times, and for the survivors to continue living and producing despite what they witnessed and went through.

Avraham also instilled within his descendants the ability not to self-rationalize or bend to peer pressure when things or situations come in conflict with G-d’s Mitzvos and commands.

When Avraham finally got to Mount Moriah and was about to offer Yitzchok as a sacrifice, an angel called out and instructed him to stop and not offer his son. With passing this test of faith, Avraham emerged as the Father of our Nation.

The Zohar – our Kaballah – tells us something amazing about Avraham going through with the binding of Yitzchok. Originally, Yitzchok was born without the ability to father children. When Yitzchok was placed upon the altar intending to give up his life to G-d and Avraham was ready to perform the deed, G-d considered their intent as if it actually happened and Yitzchok was considered offered. G-d then restored to Yitzchok a renewed soul that had the ability to produce children! Thus there was no contradiction in G-d’s words, for Yitzchok was only able to beget his son Yaacov and establish the continuity of the Jewish people through Avraham’s binding of Yitzchok on the Altar.

What emerges is that the greatest blessings are in store when we overcome the challenges and obstacles that serve to prevent us from serving G-d!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks