עשרה נסיונות נתנסה אברהם אבינו עליו השלום ועמד בכולם להודיע כמה חיבתו של אברהם אבינו עליו השלום
“With ten tests our father Abraham was tested” – The rabbis tell us in Pirkei Avot (5:3) – “and he withstood them all–in order to make known how great was our father Abraham’s love [for G-d]”.
The “tests” aim to answer some questions (why did G-d choose Abraham; why does it say ‘all of a sudden’ (in Genesis 22:1) that “G-d tested Abraham”) but leave many more unanswered. There is no agreement on what exactly are the ten tests, not to mention that we struggle to explain why would G-d “test” anyone, let alone Abraham, when, by definition, G-d already knows everything. Either way, although commentators differ on some of the tests, they all agree that the last one was the akeida, the Binding of Isaac.
After the akeida G-d doesn’t speak to Abraham again. Some say that this is because Abraham failed, and G-d doesn’t want anything to do with those who are willing to sacrifice their children; while others says that Abraham passed all the tests with flying colors, and therefore, G-d didn’t need to give him anymore personal instructions, worthy to be recorded in the Torah.
But, maybe there’s a third option.
it seems as if the first time we hear about Arbaham’s life is in the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, with the famous “Lech Lecha” command and the beginning of Abraham’s journey, but in fact, Abraham is already introduced at the end of last week’s Torah portion, Noah (Genesis 11:26-32).
There we learn that Abraham is a Hebrew, as Joseph, his great-grandson will tell about himself much later, that he came from the “Land of the Hebrews” (Genesis 40:15). It seems like this (the Land of Israel / Canaan) is where the Hebrews lived before. And now, after years in the diaspora as well as a rough antisemitic spell that included throwing people into burning ovens (which is how his brother, Haran, died), the family is thinking about going back to their homeland. On the verge of annihilation, Abraham, then Abram, takes a wife, Sarai, and Nachor takes to a wife her sister, Milkah, both daughters of Haran, possibly to continue the family and / or because there was no one else to marry. At this point it seems that, of Abraham’s family, 1/3 died in the “ovens”; 1/3 stayed abroad, in “Aram-erika”, and 1/3 opted to “make aliya” and continue to the homeland… this might sound eerily familiar to what we’ve seen in the last century, when also, “coincidentally”, Abraham was born in 1948 of the Jewish calendar…
But what is perhaps most noticeable is that after an extensive list of begets, we are told that “Sarai was barren, she had no child” (Genesis 11:30). Is she is barren And has not child, how will the people continue? It’s as if an early hint was dropped: the story of this People is going to be miraculous; it’s going to proclaim the unnatural’s presence in the world, or – that of G-d.
This is perhaps, another reason why G-d only speaks to Abraham after he marries Sarah, and indeed, the last time G-d speaks to Abraham is at the akeida, which coincides with Sarah’s death. Which means, that G-d never speaks to Abraham without Sarah. In my metaphor, Abraham and Sarah can be likened to a radio and antenna. He might be the one doing all the talking, but without the antenna, there is no reception at all.
Abraham and Sarah don’t have an easy life. Theirs is not the peaceful ride into the sunset, with the “they lived happily ever after” caption shmeared across their screen. Once, even G-d Himself had to intervene in their disputes, but what it did have, was an almost constant dialog with G-d, and how to bring His presence into the world. Maybe this is something worth having an argument or two over.