Yael Beylus, Woodmere, New York
Parshat Vayeira, like so many of the early parshiot in the Torah, is full of many amazing stories, making it a challenge to focus on just one. For me, the Akeidah seemed an appropriate focal point, as it’s the truest depiction of emunah, ahava, and Yir’at Hashem we see in the Torah, and perhaps all of Tanach.
In our davening on Rosh Hashana and in our daily Birchot Hashachar, we refer to Akeidat Yitzchak as a testimony to Avraham Avinu’s absolute trust in Hashem, and we pray to bring Hashem’s mercy upon us through the virtue of his great merit.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, world renowned Rabbi and psychiatrist, raises the following point: while Avraham’s great devotion to Hashem cannot be denied, there have been many other instances of great sacrifice and martyrdom in our history. For example, Chana watched her seven sons be killed because of their refusal to bow to an idol. In fact, the king was so moved by Chana’s childrens’ acceptance of martyrdom that he wished to spare the life of the youngest. He threw down his ring and said to the child, “Just bend down to pick it up. You will not be worshipping the idol, but the people will think you complied and bowed to the idol, and that will allow me to spare your life.” Chana told the child not to pick up the ring, and the child was killed. Does this account not equal the Akedah — does it not rival the sacrifice? Yitzchak, Baruch Hashem lived. Chana’s sons did not. Yet, we do not invoke Chana’s (or any of her sons’) merit in our prayers.
Unfortunately, there were far too many instances of self-sacrifice in our history, but the merit of the Akeidah goes beyond martyrdom. In addition, the episode of the Akeidah testifies to the greatness of Avraham in other ways, which constitutes a tremendous lesson for us all. Rabbi Dr. Twerski explains that there are subtleties in the story of the Akeidah that are often overlooked.
The Torah relates that on the day after he received the awesome Divine command,
“Vayashkeim Avraham Baboker” — Avraham woke up early in the morning to carry out the Divine command. The Talmud cites this as a virtue of Avraham and as a teaching that those who are diligent to serve Hashem hasten to fulfill His mitzvot; this is one of the reasons cited for brit milot to be performed early in the morning. One subtlety is overlooked however. If Abraham awoke in the morning, obviously he slept during the previous night! What father, knowing that he was to sacrifice his beloved child the next day, could possibly sleep peacefully? At the very least, a father would be up all night, pacing the floor, wringing his hands and crying, but not Avraham. His trust in Hashem was so perfect that he took everything with calmness and poise, thinking, “Everything that Hashem does is good. If Hashem wants me to have a son, that is good. If Hashem wants me not to have a son, that too, is good.” Avraham slept peacefully all night.
We can see now why the Akeidah is singled out as Avraham’s greatest merit. It tells us much about the character of the father of our nation and his singular relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu—something we are striving to identify in ourselves not only this year but every day of our lives.