In the end of Parsha Vayeira (22: 1 – 19) is the story of what is considered my most as the greatest of all Avraham Avinu’s ten tests. What happened? After many years of yearning and waiting to have a child who would carry on his life work of revealing the presence of the Creator to the world, he was finally at the age of ninety-nine blessed with a son named (Yitzchak) Isaac. The parsha beings with the malakim announcing the birth of Yitzkak, then changes directions and tells the story of Sodom and Lot. There is a brief mention of Yitzchak’s birth and weaning, with the parsha ending with the (Akeidah) was the bringing Yitzchak, who was then thirty-seven years old, onto the alter to be sacrificed as was the seemingly command of Hashem.
Therefore both Avraham and his son Yitzchak went to the Akeidah with total dedication to fulfill the will of the Creator. Both of them had a total appreciation of the value of life, not wasting a moment of it, yet were willing to follow the command of Hashem unquestionably. The commentators explain beautifully all the basic questions, for example: How if there is a commandment in the Torah not to murder and not to bring human sacrifices how could the command of the Akeidah exist? One explanation is that the same Creator that commands us to fast on Yom Kippur – eating being punishable by koras, commands those who are seriously ill to yes eat on Yom Kippur and even making Kiddush.
Then this section of the Torah begins with the words: “And it happened after these things that G-d tested Avraham and said to him, ‘Avraham’, and he replied, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, “Please take your son, your only one, whom you love – Isaac – to go to the land of Moriah; bring him up there as an offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you.” Then in pusack 11 the Torah says: “They arrived at the place that G-d had spoken to him; Avraham built the alter there and arranged the wood; he bound Issac, his son, and placed him on the alter atop the wood. Avraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to sacrifice his son. And an angel of Hashem called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Avraham! Avraham!’ And he said, ‘Her I am.’ And he (the angel) said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him for now I know that you are a G-d fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.’ And Avraham raised his eyes and saw – behold, a ram! Afterwards, caught in a thicket by its horns; so Avraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a offering instead of his son.”
The bomb of a question is how could Avraham follow the command of the angel not to sacrifice his son, if he had originally been commanded directly by Hashem to bring him up as an (olah) offering? That would so to speak be like being commanded by the Owner of the business to do one thing and then being told by a employee not to complete what the owner requested. To answer this question let us first understand what is the power of a mitzvah and what is a angel. A mitzvah is a commandment of the Creator that is the life force of existence. Without the Jewish people fulfilling the will of Hashem, the universe would cease to exist. The main purpose for creation is so that the presence of the Creator would be revealed through our choosing to serve with our free will. With each high quality word or deed we create a good malak and unfortunately with each inferior word or action is created a poorer level malak. Therefore that very malak that spoke to Avraham was created by his efforts towards fulfilling the will of the Creator in bringing his son onto the alter.
Since Avraham Avinu had the ability to see this malak, he was able to discern its level of perfection. Therefore when it is stated in pusak 13: And Avraham raised his eyes and saw – behold a ram – afterwards caught in the thicket by its horns.” The simple meaning is that He raised his eyes and saw the ram, but we will divide the pusak to say first he raised his eyes and saw the malak which was perfect in form without blemish. From this perfectly formed malak Avraham understood that that the mitzvah regarding bring up his son was complete and he didn’t need to do more. Now look back at pusak 2 and you can see that in actuality it had only stated: “take your son and bring him up as an offering”. Since it didn’t actually say that he needed to be sacrificed it was now understood that an alternate offering would be brought in his place. So the pusak 13 continues: “…behold, a ram! Afterwards caught in the thicket by its horns.”
This Torah lesson teaches us not to solely rely on own decisions based on our limited understanding but allowing the Torah to be our guide through the “maze” of this life’s challenges and experiences.
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