By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
The ten tests of Abraham were trials that were used by Hashem to elevate
and perfect our patriarch. The Binding of Yitzchak, the Akeidah – was
perhaps the most difficult test of all. After his birth when Abraham was
one hundred years old Yitzchak was raised by his parents as royalty.
Through prophecy his parents were aware that he was the next link in the
chain that would produce the Chosen People. The holy parents invested all
of their power in training and educating this special offspring for his
unique role in world history.
After thirty seven years Yitzchak showed signs of greatness and gave his
father a sense of certainty that the destiny of his offspring was assured.
Then came the test.
Hashem --the one who promised Abraham that Yitzchak would be his heir –
commanded him to take to a place that He would show him and to bind him on
the altar as a sacrifice. The illogical command was greeted with
acceptance and Abraham woke up early to do His creator’s bidding. At the
moment of truth, with the knife in his hand an angel cried out to Abraham
to stop. He warned that the father should in no way harm his son. Many
would jump at the opportunity and untie the young man quickly as one
could. However, Abraham answered: “When commanded by the Master and
given a contrary order by the servant to whom should one heed?”
The angel replied: “Now I know that you are a God-fearing man. You have
not withheld your son, your special one from me”. It was then that Abraham
untied his son.
What did the angel say now that prompted him to listen to the servant? His
question was still valid. Shouldn’t he continue the sacrifice as his
master had commanded?
The angel’s response contained a message to Abraham. He added the
words “from me” Every mitzvah that a person does creates an angel. That
angel will come to defend the one who created him when that soul faces the
Heavenly court at the end of his life. But not all angels are the same. If
the mitzvah was performed unenthusiastically or even begrudgingly the
angel shows imperfection. If the mitzvah was not done perfectly according
to Torah law the angel will also be imperfect. The angel told
Abraham, “You should stop. If you don’t believe you have done G-d’s will
look at me. I am the angel created by your act and I am perfect. You can
tell “from me” that you have done all that you needed to perform the will
of your Maker.”
The lesson to us is that one should always strive for perfection in
mitzvah performance. We must learn not only what to do but also what is
the best way to do it. We may pray give charity, help others and buy a
fine pair of tefillin but without Torah study can one expect a perfect
performance? Torah study also must include the study of mussar ethics and
morals to instill the proper enthusiasm and approach to the commandments
of Hashem. As we study the lives of our patriarchs and matriarchs we
should learn from their ways how to act “perfectly”.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.