I sit typing this blog post in Maaleh Adumim, a 20-minute drive from the mountain where Yitzchak was bound by his father to be sacrificed to G-d.
We are told that Avraham passed this trial and Yitzchak lived on to be the successor who fathered Yaakov from whom the 12 tribes known as Israel emerged.
The words of G-d echo throughout history as countless Jews have been trampled on like the dust of the earth and yet we continue to shine like the stars in the sky. Thousands of years have passed and I marvel that I have been blessed to be born in the era in which G-d has allowed us to return home to the land he promised us via Avraham. I am keenly aware that with this gift comes an awesome responsibility. I try my best to live up to the highest moral and ethical standards, as did Avraham, to secure the continuity of our people in our homeland.
Although I am quite the introvert, I try to emulate Avraham Avinu’s generous hospitality. Therefore, oftentimes we welcome guests to join us at our Shabbat table.
Friday night, as the candles burned, we sanctified the day with wine and sat down with our guests for the meal. I felt exceedingly grateful for everything and the world seemed to pause in a moment of silence in agreement. After the main course was served, we got into a discussion about Akeidat Yitzchak. I wondered out loud how it would have been perceived by G-d and the commentaries had Avraham protested, respectfully of course, to G-d about the command to sacrifice Yitzchak. My son turned me and replied that there are many ways to pass a test. I was taken aback for a moment in amazement. This simple answer gave me an entirely different perspective of the Akeida. I had a flashback moment to my school days when the teachers told us that we would receive credit for our answers, provided we explain the thought process that led us there.
Previously, I always thought that there was only one way for Avraham to pass the test given to him by G-d. Now I’m not so sure. In life, is there ever only one way to deal with difficulties we are handed? Do we live in a mathematical equation with a teacher who only permits us to use one formula to problem solve? Has G-d blessed us with a heart or is it meant to be a curse, that attempts to defy logic?
I think that the answer is found in a unique understanding of the first paragraph of Shema.
It is written to “love G-d with all your heart, all your soul, and all your resources”.
“All your heart” represents Avraham, who was willing to do anything for G-d as seen in his passing of all ten tests.
“All your soul” refers to Yitzchak, who let himself be bound on the altar.
“All your resources” would be Yaakov, who was the only forefather to have every wife, child and possession of his dedicated to the service of G-d of Israel.
Each forefather had his own way that was accepted by G-d.
After this we are told about the commandments and that they should be placed on our heart.
Each of us must experience and survive our own trials in life. At times we find ourselves stuck in a seemingly impossible situation without any clear cut answers.
We “bind” ourselves on an altar to G-d so to speak, believing we are doing what G-d wants and oftentimes ignore the calls to stop and reassess.
It is a great challenge when at a crossroads to know which path to take, especially when logic tells us one thing, but the nagging of the heart tells us another.
Neither one can be solely relied upon to faithfully serve G-d. We are therefore implored to surround ourselves with the teachings and commandments in order to help us balance our intellect and emotions to reach the best possible solution.
Regardless of the outcome, there is much value in the earnest efforts along the way to do the right thing. We are fortunate to be able to learn from the devotion of Avraham, the strength of Yitzchak and the harmony of Yaakov. May we blessed to find the proper mix enabling us to pass all our challenges in life.