by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And it came to pass, after all these things, that G-d tested Avraham...
And He said to him, 'Please take your son, your unique one whom you have
loved, Yitzchak, and go forward to the land of Moriah, and bring him up as
a sacrifice there, on one of the mountains which I will indicate."
After all the other trials which Avraham had undergone -- including
offering his own life against idolatry at Ur Kasdim, and removing himself
from his homeland to follow G-d -- he was now asked to offer what was for
him truly the ultimate sacrifice.
After 100 years without a child with his wife Sarah, Avraham was given
Yitzchak -- and G-d promised Avraham that through Yitzchak, not Yishmael,
he would become a great nation. Throughout his life, Avraham taught belief
in the One G-d -- and he also taught that G-d abhorred human sacrifice,
though it was a common idolatrous practice. And Avraham acquired an
excellent reputation as a teacher, leader and generous Man of G-d. And
with Yitzchak learning to follow his ways, the Jewish people surely had a
And now Avraham was asked to throw it all away. No son. No reputation.
From respected leader to childless laughingstock. And his response?
"Hineni, I am here!" "And Avraham rose early in the morning to saddle his
donkey..." [22:3] Though he had servants, he ran to perform G-d's will
The greatness of human beings lies in our ability to do things which
violate our instincts, to rise above the animal within. To use a term
coined by the Chassidic Rebbe / Psychiatrist Abraham Twersky, MD, a human
being is not merely "homo sapiens," but "homo spiritus" - one capable of
spiritual dominance over animal instinct.
Perhaps it could even be said that the biggest practical difference
between the religious person and the athiest isn't belief in G-d -- but
belief in ourselves. The athiest says that we are creatures of instinct,
higher animals who still do all our actions to answer to one or another of
our desires. Even charity is done because we cannot stand the sight of
other people suffering, or because we want to feel great, important and
beneficent. The Jew recognizes that it is his or her responsibility to do
a Mitzvah, "like it or not."
You do not have to get angry. You can rise above that anger. And you can
give to others even when your entire self begs to be left alone. Try it!
It's not as hard as it may seem...
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Torah.org.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.