Dear Readers,

In life, we all have tests and challenges. A challenge is something (or someone) blocking us from reaching our desired outcome. For some, it is poor health, physically preventing you from achieving. For others, it is psychological, like a difficult childhood that robs you of self-esteem. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes.

But what if overcoming your challenge means surrendering yourself to a life totally devoid of purpose and meaning? What if it involves sacrificing everything you love and hold dear?

“Our father Abraham was tested with ten tests and he withstood them all—to indicate how great was his love for G‑d” (Avot 5:3).

The commentaries differ in enumerating these 10 tests. They include moving from his land and ancestral home, and then facing a famine; wars with kings; being thrown into a fiery furnace when he refused to serve idols; being circumcised at an advanced age; listening to Sarah and expelling Ishmael, so that he wouldn’t negatively influence their son, Isaac. His final, hardest test was to sacrifice Isaac.

The Talmud comments: “G‑d said to Abraham, ‘I have tried you with many tests and you have withstood them all. Now I beg you, please withstand this test for Me, lest they say that the earlier ones were of no substance.’”

Throughout his life, Abraham was on a mission to find his higher calling. He searched for G‑d and then embarked on teaching humankind about this monotheistic Creator. Abraham worried over who would continue his mission; miraculously, at 100 years old, Isaac was born.

Each test that Abraham experienced represented an obstacle on his path, preventing him from realizing his life’s mission. By overcoming each one, he was closer to his objective of making the world a more G‑dly place.

But then G‑d did the totally inexplicable, commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son—an idolatrous practice at the time. Listening to G‑d’s command meant killing his most beloved son. It also meant destroying any chance of an heir continuing in his work. Moreover, it meant extinguishing everything that he had taught.

This was Abraham’s most difficult test. It ran contrary to all that Abraham believed, and it meant sacrificing his entire raison d’être.

Yet, Abraham listened, unflinchingly. Why? Because this was G‑d’s desire. He understood that G‑d was infinitely beyond him, and though it seemed senseless and disastrous, if this was His will, then it became Abraham’s as well.

The attributes of our forefathers and foremothers were transmitted to us, their children. The Jewish willingness throughout the centuries to die for the sake of G‑d is rooted in Abraham’s actions. The seeds of our nation’s love for our ancestral home were planted with Abraham’s perseverance to travel to the Holy Land.

And generations later—even when it may not seem to make sense, and even after we suffered so much abuse, hatred and genocide just for being Jewish—our nation remains strong and devoted to G‑d, just like our forefather, Abraham.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW