“For now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me” (Bereishis 22:12).
Our Sages tell us that one angel came after the Akeidah and said, “I know that you are G-d-fearing.” Then, after Avraham Avinu sacrificed the ram, a second angel came and said: “since you have not withheld your son…I shall bless you and increase your children like the stars of the Heaven and the sand on the seashore.”
R’ Itzele Peterburger asks: Why did Avraham only merit the blessings after he slaughtered the ram and not immediately after he showed his willingness to sacrifice Yitzchak?
He explains that the climax of the nisayon of the akeidah was only reached after he was prevented from going through with the deed. Would Avraham breathe a sigh of relief that Yitzchak’s life had been saved? Such a response would have been antithetical to Hashem’s will.
The Mishnah (Avos 2:4) states, “Make His will your will.” Indeed, after Hashem told Avraham not to sacrifice Yitzchak, Avraham wanted to at least maim his son to demonstrate his willingness to obey Hashem’s command. But Hashem did not allow him to do so.
When Avraham slaughtered the ram, he said with each sacrificial action, “May it be Your will, Hashem, that this should be considered as if I had done this to my own son.” Rashi notes (Vayikra 26:42) that “the ashes of Yitzchak appear before Hashem, gathered up and placed on the altar.”
In any event, the Satan, aware of the crux of the nisayon, tried to prevent Avraham from sacrificing the ram and entangled its horns in the bushes. Thus, it was only after Avraham Avinu successfully sacrificed the ram that blessings were bestowed upon him.
Rav Nosson Wachtfogel, zt”l, the mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood cites a Medrash Rabbah that says that Avraham Avinu asked Hashem to swear to him that He wouldn’t test him or his son, Yitzchak, any further. The mashgiach asks: Why did he make such a request? After all, the akeidah is an eternal zechus for the Jewish nation, as we say in Rosh Hashanah davening, “Remember today the akeidah of Yitzchak for the sake of his offspring.”
So why didn’t Avraham Avinu want another nisayon, especially since Hashem doesn’t give a person a challenge he can’t endure?
The truth is that the nisayon of the akeidah lasted Avraham’s entire life. Every day, he recalled that Yitzchak had been saved and had to remain vigilant not to be grateful for being blocked from fulfilling Hashem’s command. Facing this test every day, he didn’t need any additional ones.
The Zohar states that adversarial forces will try to prevent the final redemption. As a result, in the days preceding the arrival of Moshiach, nisyonos will be compounded. The Divrei Yoel adds that it will be a time of strict judgment, and the trials and tribulations will be even more difficult than those experienced in Egypt. Hashem promised us that we will be His beloved treasure, but that designation brings with it many challenges.
The Riva comments that just as false prophets tried to prevail upon us to abandon Hashem in the past, so too our faith in Hashem will be impugned in the ikvesa d’meshicha (the days before Moshiach). Evil people will arise, espousing heresy and anti-Semitism, and they will, unfortunately, be successful. Indeed, in recent years we have seen an unusual rise in anti-Israel sentiments.
The Talmud (Kiddushin 81a) relates that the great R’ Meir Baal HaNess would ridicule transgressors by saying that if they tried, they would see that avoiding temptation to sin is easy. Since he was an individual of such great stature, Heaven granted the yetzer hara permission to test him. One day, as R’ Meir walked alongside a riverbank, the Satan appeared to him as a woman standing on the other side of the river.
With no means to reach her, R’ Meir took hold of a rope bridge and started to cross the river. When he was halfway across, the yetzer hara withdrew and said, “Were it not for the fact that they say about you in Heaven, ‘Be careful with regard to Rabbi Meir and his Torah,’ I would have made your blood completely worthless since you would have fallen completely from your high spiritual level.”