This week’s Torah portion, Parashas Vayeira, tells us the story of the birth of Yitzchok Avinu, the saving of Lot and his daughters from the destruction of the city of S’dom, Avraham Avinu’s dealing with Hagar and Yishma’el, and finally, Akeidas Yitzchok.
Akeidas Yitzchok, when Avraham Avinu intended to sacrifice his precious only son on an altar as a pure offering as per Hashem’s wishes, seems to be a most perplexing event. Besides for its obvious contradictory nature to any parent’s general modus operandi, Avraham Avinu is the last person we’d expect to do such a seemingly cruel act.
Avraham Avinu was the epitome of Chesed, lovingkindness. We learn that there are three pillars upon which the world stands: Torah, Avodah (Tefillah – prayer), and Chesed. These pillars correspond to the three forefathers. Avraham Avinu’s life was Chesed. Yitzchok Avinu taught us the power of Tefillah. And Yaakov Avinu was the quintessential Yeshiva student!
We see that Avraham Avinu was always involved in Chesed. Whether it was serving strangers passing by or bringing other people closer to Hashem, the ultimate Chesed, he was constantly busy with this, his lifelong passion. Why was it so painful to Avraham Avinu not to have children? He was first and foremost a giver, and the most natural way of giving in our world is from parent to child, and for many years he was denied that privilege.
This attribute of giving was so integral to Avraham Avinu that it became ingrained in the genetic material of all of his children, the Jewish people. There are three attributes that are characteristic of a Jewish person: that s/he is merciful, has a conscience for what’s right and wrong, and is a doer of lovingkindness! Jewish thought clearly holds Chesed as a major factor in our lives.
Akeidas Yitzchok was one of the ten tests of Avraham Avinu. Hashem was testing Avraham Avinu to see, would he stick to his nature of unlimited giving, or would he overcome his nature for the higher purpose of following Hashem’s wishes? Avraham Avinu passed the test with flying colors. He was ready to sacrifice his son and only stopped when an angel prevented him from completing the act, as per Hashem’s word.
It doesn’t seem to make sense. How could Hashem command Avraham Avinu to do such a thing? Hashem clearly had a plan from the beginning; He knew that Avraham Avinu wouldn’t really kill his son in the end. Hashem just wanted to test Avraham Avinu’s loyalty – where did it lie, with Hashem, or with his own wishes?
Every good character trait, every middah, has its limits. Giving to the point that a person becomes overwhelmed and can’t take care of her own needs is one example of misjudging how far Chesed should go.
How do you use your natural pull to do Chesed to serve Hashem?
I’m listening to my favorite song currently, which is so beautiful and gorgeous that I am literally capable of listening to it all day without getting bored! It’s called Chochama Umushlemet by Meydad Tasa. The words of the song are directed toward the Torah, how much we love the Torah, and our lifelong quest to follow its commandments and learn its secrets. The Torah is invaluable and the wisdom and perfection contained within are incomparable due to the Divine identity of its Writer! You can find the song online by googling this: “חכמה ומושלמת”. Let me know what you think!