PARSHAT Vaeira – 5784
עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִתְנַסָּה אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם וְעָמַד בְּכֻלָּם, לְהוֹדִיעַ כַּמָּה חִבָּתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם:
With ten trials was Abraham, our father (may he rest in peace), tried, and he withstood them all; to make known how great was the love of Abraham, our father (peace be upon him).
Rambam on Pirkei Avot 5:3:1
- “Go forth from your land, etc.” (Genesis 12:1).
- The famine that was found in the Land of Canaan when he came there and it was [the land of] his destiny … (Genesis 12:10).
- The injustice of the Egyptians towards him in the taking of Sarah to Pharaoh.
- His fighting against the four kings.
- The fifth is his taking of Hagar as a wife after he despaired of giving birth through Sarah.
- The circumcision.
- The injustice of the king of Gerar towards him in his also taking Sarah.
- The expulsion of Hagar after his being built (having a child) from her.
- The distancing of his son, Yishmael. (Genesis 21:12).
- And the tenth is the binding of Yitzchak.
Although all Avot were tested, Abraham is the only one who is specifically mentioned. This is due to a number of factors. The first is that all of the stories in Tanakh and Bereshit up to this point have been about testing people who fail. Not because the test was too difficult; G-d never gives a test that a person cannot pass; but because people made wrong choices. Eve succumbed to the temptation, Cain failed, Noah’s generation did not fare well, and so on.
Abraham was the first to stand up to the testing. Another explanation is that Abraham not only passed, but passed with flying colors. That is, he did it completely out of love for G-d and without hesitation.
Abraham received a more difficult test every time he passed his test to demonstrate his love and Emunah/ trust in G-d. The most difficult test was the “Akida”, binding his beloved son Izaak.
It was the most difficult test for Abraham because it involved his beloved son, but also because he had to overcome an inner conflict. How could G-d claim that Isaac would be his future when he had to die now? The challenge was that even though Abraham didn’t comprehend anything, didn’t know how the future would unfold, or how the goal might be reached, he still performed what G-d requested. He made no excuses, used no rationale that G-d probably intended it differently than he understood, but instead said: ‘hineni’ here I am, and did what was asked of him. Without delaying or asking inquiries. He got up early in the morning, saddled the donkey himself and went.
Abraham demonstrated entire faith in G-d through all of his deeds. This was due to his total Jirah – awe/fear of G-d. He understood that G-d was a perfect One, who saw everything, heard everything, knew everything, and controlled everything. He accepted everything that a human may experience as sorrow with love, knowing and comprehending that G-d only wanted the best for him. G-d rewards Abraham for his actions.
When we read through the entire story we see something remarkable. During the test the name Elokim is used. Elokim’s name is related to “din.” It conveys a sense of darkness and constraint. It puts man in a situation where he doesn’t know what to do, in a situation where he doesn’t understand.
Afterwards the name Hashem is used. This term indicates that there is a close connection. G-d and Abraham had an exceptionally close friendship. All this culminated in G-d generously blessing Abraham.
What can we take away from this for our daily lives today?
The Baal ShemTov calls our world the world of testing and his student, Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl teaches that not only did Abraham face ten tests in his life, but that everyone faces ten tests in their lives. Everyone, young and old, has a test that is appropriate for their stage of life and spiritual degree.
G-d puts people to the test in order for man to demonstrate that he truly believes in G-d, trusts in G-d, and loves Him. Without a test, all you’ve learnt and what you claim to stand for is just that: theory.
A exam elevates you to a higher spiritual level if you pass it. It also serves as a message to those around you. People wonder who the G-d is in Whom you put your trust when they witness you continuing to believe and trust in G-d in the midst of adversity. As Rabbein Yonah states:
“In order to show how great was the love of Abraham, our father: He tested him in order to reveal to the creatures that he feared God and was complete in all of his traits.”
You must prepare for a test from G-d in the same way that you would for a school exam. If you are doing well in life, you must consider the values and standards that G-d expects of you, as well as learn to pray and trust G-d. When you are put to the test, your “faith muscle” will be strengthened to handle the task.
In Deuteronomy 31:18 we read that G-d can hide His fase.
וְאָנֹכִ֗י הַסְתֵּ֨ר אַסְתִּ֤יר פָּנַי֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם
It signifies that people encounter hardships without realizing that G-d is providing them for their benefit. For example, to abandon bad habits or sins. We can perceive that G-d is hiding His face. What gives us assurance that He is near, even in dark times.
There are situations that are so difficult that we cannot see or conceive the hidden good in them. Situations in which you may feel abandoned by God. That is when we should follow Abraham’s example and declare, “I don’t understand, but I will do what You, G-d, ask of me.” Just as Abraham was blessed after passing the test, you will be blessed.
By Angelique Sijbolts
 וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹקים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃
Some time afterward, Elokim put Abraham to the test, saying to him, “Abraham.” He answered, “Here I am.” (1)
וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אַבְרָהָ֜ם בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַֽיַּחֲבֹשׁ֙ אֶת־חֲמֹר֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֞ח אֶת־שְׁנֵ֤י נְעָרָיו֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וְאֵ֖ת יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיְבַקַּע֙ עֲצֵ֣י עֹלָ֔ה וַיָּ֣קׇם וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹקים׃
So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which Elokim had told him. (3)
וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֱלֹקים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ הַשֶּׂ֛ה לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑י וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃
And Abraham said, “It is Elokim who will see to the sheep for this burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.(8)
וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽמַר־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹקים֒ וַיִּ֨בֶן שָׁ֤ם אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וַֽיַּעֲרֹ֖ךְ אֶת־הָעֵצִ֑ים וַֽיַּעֲקֹד֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ וַיָּ֤שֶׂם אֹתוֹ֙ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ מִמַּ֖עַל לָעֵצִֽים׃
They arrived at the place of which Elokim had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (9)
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹקים֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃
“Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear Elokim, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” (12)
 וַיִּקְרָ֧א אַבְרָהָ֛ם שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא יְהֹוָ֣ה ׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה יֵרָאֶֽה׃
And Abraham named that site Hashem Adonai-yireh, whence the present saying, “On the mount of Hashem there is vision.” (14)
וַיִּקְרָ֛א מַלְאַ֥ךְ יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם שֵׁנִ֖ית מִן־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃
The messenger of Hashem called to Abraham a second time from heaven,(15)
וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בִּ֥י נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי נְאֻם־יְהֹוָ֑ה כִּ֗י יַ֚עַן אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֖כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידֶֽךָ׃
and said, “By Myself I swear, Hashem declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one,(16)
With thanks to B. Yaniger for the inspiration
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