"Avrohom Ovinu was tested with ten trials and withstood them
all, to prove Avrohom Ovinu's great love," Pirkei
Most of the trials with which Avrohom was tested were
enumerated in last week's portion of Lech Lecho: Going
forth from his land; the famine in the land of Canaan;
Sorai's being abducted to Pharaoh's palace; the war of the
kings; the expulsion of Hogor and Yishmoel and the
circumcision. In his commentary on Ovos, the Gra
brings the source for the enumeration of the trials, but
despite the great difficulty in Avrohom's surmounting these
trials, they were not sufficient to warrant his being awarded
the description of "G-d-fearing." Only in this week's
portion, at the conclusion of the tenth test, the
Akeidah, is he told, "Now do I know that you are G- d-
fearing." Now, not before.
Why? Was not this designation of piety evident throughout the
previous nine tests and before them? To be sure, each hurdle
overcome exposed a new dimension and depth to his G-d-fear,
but how are we to understand that "only now do I know that
you are G-d-fearing"? Up till then it was not possible to
make such a definitive statement? If, theoretically speaking,
he had not passed the final test and had not achieved this
ultimate level of devoutness and steadfastness, would that
entirely negate his fear of Hashem? What had caused him to
withstand the previous nine tests if not his G-d-fear?
This topic is dealt with at length in the various works of
our sages throughout the ages. We will try to present them in
more familiar terms.
The first premise to consider is that the honorific
descriptions which the Torah conveys upon a person are earned
only if they represent an unchanging truth, an unalterable
reality that will never fall short. Anything below this
cannot be considered truth in the eyes of the Torah and has
no place in the Torah of eternal, abiding Truth.
Chazal denote as a ma'ayon achziv, an erstwhile
(literally -- disappointing) fountain, any fountain that
stops spouting forth water as infrequently as once in seventy
This, then, is an example of what the Torah considers true
and valid, in contrast to the deceptive standards accepted by
us, which attribute importance to temporary events. In the
eyes of the Torah, so long as a condition is not immutable,
it is not true, it is not emes.
Therefore, when the purely objective description of `G-d-
fearing' is about to be attached to a human being, the
determining question is not if he is at that moment in a
state of piety, but if his measure of acquired piety is
immutable and not subject to any regression whatsoever.
When the personality in question is Avrohom Ovinu, the
subject veers from the narrow bounds of his figure alone. It
must be ascertained whether his piety will endure and not
change forever more, even in his seed, to the end of time.
For if there will be a recession by his descendants, one
cannot rule out the possibility of it having originated with
the progenitor, Avrohom, as a small flaw. We see that Yaakov
Ovinu prayed that his name not be mentioned with regard to
the controversy of Korach, which is why the Torah omits
Yaakov in the list of his genealogy and stops short at Levi
(see Rashi). Yaakov was, indeed, afraid that he would be
blamed for an imperfection that later resulted in such a
magnitude of treachery.
The Ramban states in Parshas Nitzovim: "`For the
father is the root and the son is an offshoot...': a good
root will not produce evil, and whoever has a heart that is
whole with Hashem and never contemplates idolatry will not
produce an offspring who does worship it." Therefore, when
the Torah prepares to establish that Avrohom Ovinu was "G-d-
fearing," it must include a determined fact that the Jewish
people, descendants of Avrohom Ovinu, shall forever be G-d-
fearing, without any aberration or regression.
In order to be worthy of such an eternal, comprehensive
designation, it was necessary to put Avrohom to the final,
ultimate test of faith: Akeidas Yitzchok.
In this test, he demonstrated that in all of his faculties,
deep down to the very marrow of his bones, he was thoroughly,
wholeheartedly, ultimately loyal to Hashem and to Hashem
alone. Had there been the slightest selfish residue hidden
somewhere in his psyche, the tiniest measure of independence
or self interest or self pity or anything else, he would not
have withstood the test. Not because he did not want to, but
simply because he would not have been capable of it.
To slaughter his dearly beloved only son? With his own hands?
His withstanding this trial was the outcome of a necessary
fact that Avrohom Ovinu had no personal attachment to Avrohom
Ovinu! He was completely dissociated. He was the embodiment
of yirei Elokim: he was a G-d-fearing entity. Wholly.
Perfectly. He did not consider himself and did not feel
himself. He was G-d-fearing, par excellence. In
essence. And G-d had said: "Bring him up there for a
From that very moment on, from his becoming an entity of "G-d-
fear," this designation was determined forever more; it would
never change. At this point, the father prototype became the
root, and the descendants its offshoots, products of a
"sweet," goodly stock from which bitter could not be
produced. From a "G-d-fearer" there emerged a nation of G-d-
fearers. This reality was henceforth immutable. Even if they
would sin, for "A Jew -- even if he sins, he is still a
The innermost core, the pintele Yid, would always
remain intact, the flame would always flicker, if not burn.
That core might become overlaid with rags and rubbish, grime
and dirt that piled up in layers over the years, but the root
that hails back to the patriarch would always remain.
"Blessed are You, Hashem, Shield of Avrohom."