Listening to the Messages of Avraham

In this week’s Torah reading, we read of what must have been one of the most unusual moments in the Torah, the moment when Hashem tells Avraham to offer his son, Yitzchak, as a sacrifice on Mt Moriah. Over the years, we come to this narrative and are jaded by the fact that we already know that Avraham will not, in the end, need to carry out this act. And yet, when we think about the implications, we begin to get a glimpse into the greatness of Avraham. Without hesitation and without questioning the Creator, our father, Avraham sets out to do that which he has been commanded: Sacrifice his son–yes, infanticide.

As we know, at the last moment, an angel calls out to him from the Heavens and stops him from this act and has G-d declaring that He sees Avraham as a completely G-d fearing person. He offers up a ram in place of his son and the narrative comes to an end….or so it seems.

While most commentators look upon the Akedat Yitzchak (Binding of Isaac) narrative as the last of the ten tests that Avraham had to go through, there was yet one more to come, according to Rabbenu Yonah. He states that the fact that Avraham Avinu had to PURCHASE a burial place for his wife, Sarah (in NEXT week’s parasha) and at an exorbitant rate, was itself the last test he went through. After all, Avraham was given the land as a gift from G-d and yet, now, he is faced with having to give up a fortune to purchase this burial plot/cave.

I believe that both of these incidents together can give us a perspective on modern times and what message we need to hear from them.

The “theme” of almost everything we read from the beginning of last week’s parasha (Lech Lecha) through and including next week’s parasha (Chaye Sarah) is that of ALIYA.

The Aliya story begins with Avraham being commanded to go from his birthplace to a location that G-d will tell him; continues with his trials and tribulations once there; sends him on a mission to sacrifice his son (the very son, through whom, he was to inherit this Land); and then ends with the purchase of the Cave of Machpela–property to which he was already entitled.

And perhaps this is the message Hashem  is trying to give US as well…He tells each and every one of us: Lech Lecha–leave your home; leave the comfort-zone that you are in; leave perhaps the only reality that you have known and go to the place He wants us to go. If Hashem is giving it to you, you can be assured it is the best land you can have.

But once the decision to follow the word of Hashem is made and plans are drawn up to make Aliya and you arrive in Israel, the trials and tribulations may begin, as they did for Avraham.  It is not easy, this move we call Aliya. It is fraught with obstacles along the way. Sometimes we feel a sense of emptiness or an internal famine. And at one extreme, we may even feel like Avraham at Akedat Yitzchak: it may seem that we are about to sacrifice our children in order to live the dream of Aliya. But what may SEEM like a sacrifice in our eyes, only leads Hashem to tell us that He sees us as being G-d fearing people looking to do His will, as we make that move to His land. Yet, once in His land, the expenses may seem so great and the “burden” so heavy that the test to listen to His command to make and survive Aliya continues. And again, we learn from Avraham–no matter the expense, no matter the burden, no matter the trial–this is the land that Hashem has promised us and it is the Land that he wanted to remain on at ANY cost.

If a person looks at the Torah as merely a book of the “story” of the Jewish People, then perhaps the message will never sink in. But, if we look at the Torah as the living Word of Hashem, then we must be willing to listen to what He tells us.

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים The actions of the forefathers are signs for the descendants…

The מעשה אבות clearly indicate the desire to completely fulfill the will of Hashem. And the very first command of Hashem to the very first Jew was to come to Israel–make Aliya–live in His Land…

It is time to wake up. It is time to realize that the place to live as a Jew, the place to thrive as a Jew, the place to grow as a Jew is in the very place that Hashem Himself has told us: The Land of Israel!

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.
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