Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha the final nisayon of Avraham Avinu, Akeidas Yitzchak. When the angel of Gd descends and tells Avraham not to harm his son, he tells him (Chapter 22, Pasuk 12), Ki Atah Yadati Ki Yeraih Elokim Atah. Now I know you are a Gd fearing person. One of the questions asked by the commentators is, the midah of Avodas Hashem for which Avraham was known was Ahavah. Avraham was known for serving Hashem out of closeness and love. An example of this closeness is illustrated earlier in the parsha when Hashem says regarding the destruction of Sedom (Chapter 18, Pasuk 17), HaMechaseh Ani M’Avraham Asher Ani Oseh. Can I hide from Avraham that which I am about to do? The closeness was so great that Hashem felt it inconceivable to act without mentioning it to Avraham. If so, how is it that when Avraham passes his final and most difficult test, it is attributed to the midah of Yirah which is inferior to the midah of Ahavah (see the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah, Chapter 10, Halacha 1-2?

The Sfas Emes answers this question by explaining the trait of serving Gd from Ahavah. Avraham had an intense desire to carry out the will of Hashem. He was totally tuned in to the Ratzon Hashem, the will of Gd, and did everything he could to fulfill His desire. His entire being and essence was committed to following Hashem. It was his natural behavior; the will of Gd became the will of Avraham.

This mode of Avodah, however, caused Avraham difficulties at Akeidas Yitzchak.

When Gd gave Avraham the command to slaughter his son, it was not His true intention, as we learn in the end. Therefore, it was not the Ratzon Hashem. Consequently, Avraham Avinu found himself at a loss. He was commanded to carry out an act which didn’t represent the true will of Gd. He sensed a distance and disconnection to the mitzvah and didn’t feel the natural response of compliance. This difficulty is expressed in the pasuk which describes Avraham coming across Har HaMoriah (Chapter 22, Pasuk 4), Vayar es HaMakom MeRachok, He saw the place from a distance. Rather than his normal service of Gd from a place of closeness, he was now forced to serve Gd from a distance. He couldn’t relate to a command that did not express the true will of Gd. He had to fulfill the command just because he was commanded to. This is the midah of Yirah, of fearing Hashem and carrying out His command. This was the nisayon of Avraham Avinu.

This is why the pasuk says Ki Atah Yadati Ki Yeraih Elokim Atah. Even though serving Gd from Ahavah is on a higher level than Yirah, Avraham’s nisayon was to see whether he could adapt to the mode of Yirah. And this meant to follow the will of Hashem and not question it; despite his inability to feel the connection and make Gd’s will his own will.

This also explains why the Akeidah is considered as a test for Avraham Avinu. Surely it was a test for Yitzchak as well, as Chazal teach that Yitzchak was aware what Avraham’s intention was and went along willingly (see the Rashi on Chapter 22 Pasuk 8). The answer is that Yitzchak was known for serving Gd through Yirah. This meant accepting the will of Gd and not questioning. For him, the nisayon of the Akeidah was consistent with his normal way of service. But for Avraham, as we explained, it meant changing the whole manner he related to Hashem. This was his nisayon, and he was successful in his response.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from here about our own service of Gd. Even if we manage to reach a level of Ahavah and closeness, it is essential to learn to serve Hashem and do mitzvoth even if we don’t feel particularly close. If we can’t relate to a certain mitzvah, or have difficulty being inspired and feeling close on any particular day, we must muster up the sense of obligation and Yirah and keep the mitzvoth regardless, no matter how difficult they might be for us. This is the lesson to be learned from Akeidas Yitzchak.

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