Abraham’s Test is Our Test

Our rabbis (Pirkei Avot 5:3) teach us that Abraham faced ten “tests” and withstood them all. What were those tests? Almost all the commentaries agree on the first several tests. And almost everyone believes that Akeidat Yitzchak, God’s command in last week’s Torah reading for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, was the final test Abraham faced. That was the ultimate test and the apex of Abraham’s calling as God’s servant.

Except for Rabbi Yonah Gerondi, a 13th century Spanish sage. In his commentary, he writes that the ultimate test is found in this week’s Torah reading: finding a burial plot and negotiating for it with the Hittites following the passing of Sarah his wife. Why should this seemingly anticlimactic real estate transaction be Abraham’s ultimate test?

The answer is that Sarah’s passing was the greatest personal tragedy in Abraham’s life. Abraham was mourning for his wife and life partner and no doubt found it incredibly challenging to move forward and do what was right for his family and for his people. That was his test: when faced with tragedy, would Abraham be paralyzed and unable to function? Or would he be able to respond to the tragedy with the necessary actions to do what was right and honorable for Sarah and for his fledgling community?

Following the massacre in Pittsburgh, this is our test as well. We are challenged to gather the strength and cohesion to come together as a national and world Jewish community to properly honor the memories of the martyrs who were killed on account of their Jewishness. We are further challenged to do what is right for our people: to #ShowUpForShabbat at synagogues in droves to show that our people does not give up and that we continue to live our Jewish lives publicly and proudly.

May this truly be a Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Roy Feldman is Rabbi of Congregation Beth Abraham-Jacob in Albany, New York. Prior to that, he was Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City and taught Judaic studies at the Ramaz Upper School. He has studied at and holds degrees from Yeshivat Petach Tikva, Columbia University, and Yeshiva University. Rabbi Feldman believes that a rabbi’s primary role in the twenty-first century is to articulate, embody, and exemplify the reasons why traditional Judaism remains relevant today.
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