In this week’s Parsha, we learn more about our forefather Avraham – a paragon of kindness and giving, a man totally dedicated to the rejection of polytheism and acceptance of the one G-d.
His kindness is evidenced when he is found sitting at the door of his tent, three days after his own Bris Milah, his circumcision. The Medrash tells us that G-d deliberately brought out a hot sun that day, so that travellers would not go out. He gave Avraham the chance to rest and recuperate.
Avraham, however, was not happy to have a break. He had built his tent with four doors, facing North, South, East, and West, only in order that guests always find an open door facing them. Now, he was upset that no guests were coming through those doors, even though the pain of his Milah was at its most intense.
G-d saw that Avraham was upset, so he sent angels, dressed as men, to be Avraham’s guests — and Avraham went running to serve them. This was Avraham’s dedication to kindness towards others, and friendship to all.
Avraham’s hardest test comes at the end of the Parsha. After demonstrating his kindness for so long, he is told to be cruel… to his own son.
Not only Avraham’s kindness was tested; we must also imagine what a laughingstock Avraham would have become. From an early age, he had rejected idols and promoted monotheism. He had even audaciously smashed his father’s idols — for which he was thrown into a furnace, only to emerge unscathed. And he had made his life’s work spreading kindness, charity, and monotheistic belief in G-d. Throughout, he had been “pounding the pulpit,” telling people that sacrificing their children is wrong. It’s immoral! It must stop! And now… what would have happened if he himself sacrificed his son? All his life’s work would be destroyed. He’d be a public joke. The Name of G-d would (ch”v) be a joke. Idol-worship would blossom as never before.
Furthermore, G-d promised that He would make Abraham into a great nation — not through Yishmael, not through any of his other children, but specifically through Yitzchak. It was Isaac who carried forward the same beliefs and dedication to G-d. Now G-d is asking Avraham to kill that same Yitzchak. Did G-d lie, ch”v?
But what happens? When G-d calls, Abraham says “Hineni!” “Here I am!” G-d tells him what to do, and he jumps out of bed — “And Abraham arose early in the morning…” No questions, no debates, no worry at all — G-d told him what to do, and he’s running to do it.
The message is clear: Avraham did what was right — not what was popular, or what he himself thought would produce the best result. He knew that G-d demanded something contrary to his own thinking, contrary to what people might have wanted, and his priority was to do that which is good, that which is G-dly. Had he decided to be popular, he would have remained an idol-worshipper. Had he decided to remain popular — to run his new synagogue like a good business — he would have refused to sacrifice Isaac, and never would have become “the Beloved of G-d.”
We are often called upon to do what is right, rather than what is popular. In the merit of our forefather Avraham, we should always merit to pass that test!
Text Copyright © 2001 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.