It’s not always easy to do the right thing. So, we work on ourselves, become determined and then go for it. We then feel good about our decision and then…. sometimes despite our best intentions and efforts, things don’t turn out as rosy as we had hoped for. Do we then regret our original decision to the right thing?
At the conclusion of the passage we read last week, Lech Lecha; G-d commands our father Avraham to march his thirty-seven-year-old son Yitzchak up Mt. Moriah and place him on the altar as an offering. This was the test of all tests! After G-d promises Avraham that he will father a child that will continue the mission to teach monotheism and truth to the world, and at the age of one hundred Avraham indeed fathers Yitzchak. It is the ultimate test of faith and commitment to G-d if Avraham will comply even though it is not aligned with G-d’s previous promises.
Indeed, Avraham passes this Tenth Test with flying colors. In Genesis 22:12 an angel from heaven calls out to Avraham:
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִם֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃
And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.”
Avraham and Yitzchak descend from the mountain euphoric that G-d has embraced their efforts and that the Binding of Isaac will be enshrined into the collective memory of the Jewish people when we sound the Shofar each year on Rosh Hashana reflecting the ram that was offered on the altar instead of Yitzchak.
HOWEVER - When returning to Eylonei Mamre, where Sarah was staying Avraham discovered that Sarah died when hearing that Avraham was taking her son Yitzchak to a mountain to be slaughtered.
Despite this painful tragedy he suffered seemingly related to the fulfillment of G-d’s commandment, Avraham showed no remorse or regret for doing what was right and noble. He immediately sets out to find and purchase an appropriate burial plot at Maarat Hamachpela, performed the Mitzvah of burying his dear wife and then orchestrated a search for a wife for his son Yitzchak.
Like our father Avraham, we too should not only choose to do the right things in life, but after doing so, even if things don’t work out as hoped for not negate or regret the good that has been accomplished.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
JFed Scholar in Residence