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.