And it came to pass after these things, that God tested [nisah] Avraham (Gen. 21:1). It is written, “You have given a nes (flag, banner) to those who fear You, that it may be displayed [lehithnoses] because of truth [koshet], selah” (Ps. 60:6): this means, trial after trial, greatness after greatness, in order to test them in the world and exalt them in the world like a ship’s flag. And why all this? ‘Because of truth, selah’: so that the attribute of justice [din] may be verified [titkashet] in the world. Thus, if one says: ‘Whom God wishes to enrich, God enriches; to impoverish, God impoverishes; whom God desires God makes into a king; when God wished, God made Avraham wealthy, and when God wished God made him a king!’ Then you can answer that person and say, ‘Can you do what Avraham did?’ And the person would ask: 'What did he do?' and you say: "Avraham was a hundred years old, when his son Itzchak was born to him" (Gen. 21:5); yet after all this pain it was said to him: "Take, please, your son, your only son" (22:2), yet he did not refuse. This is ‘You have given a flag to those who fear You, that it may be displayed’.
Ad-nai tries the righteous; and His soul hates the evil ones and those who love violence (Ps. 11: 5). Rabbi Yonatan said: When a flax worker knows that his flax is of good quality, the more he beats it the more it improves and the more it glistens; but if it is of inferior quality, he cannot give it one knock without it splitting. Similarly, Ad-nai does not test the wicked - why? Because they cannot withstand it, as it is written "And the evil ones He expels like the sea" (Isaiah 57:20) and who does God test? The righteous, as it says "Ad-nai tries the righteous." "And it was, after these things, his master’s wife cast [tisah] [her eyes upon Yosef and said, “Lie with me."(Gen. 39:7)" "And it was, after these things" - Rabbi Yonatan said: A potter does not test defective vessels, because he cannot give them a single blow without breaking them. What then does he test? Only strong vessels, for he will not break them even with many blows. Similarly, the Holy One of Blessing does not test the wicked but the righteous, as it says, ‘Ad-nai tries the righteous.’ Rabbi Eleazar said: When a man possesses two cows, one strong and the other weak, on which one he puts the yoke? Surely on the strong one Similarly, God tests only the righteous, as it says, ‘Ad-nai tries the righteous.’
Another opinion: “The Lord tests the righteous.” – This is Abraham – “Sometime after these things, God tested Abraham.” R. Avin expounded: (Ecclesiastes 8:4) “Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him: ‘What are you doing?’” – R. Avin said: [This may be compared] to a teacher who commands his student, saying to him: (Deuteronomy 16:19) “You shall not judge unfairly,” but [the teacher himself] judges unfairly; (Deuteronomy 16:19) “Do not take a bribe,” but [the teacher himself] takes a bribe; Do not lend on interest, but [the teacher himself] lends on interest. His student said to him: Rabbi, you said to me: Do not lend on interest, but you lend on interest? [Is it] permitted to you but forbidden to me? [The teacher] said to him: I said to you: Do not lend on interest to a Jew, but you may lend on interest to an idol worshipper, as it is written: (Deuteronomy 23:21) “You may lend on interest to a foreigner, but you may not lend on interest to your brother [Israelite].” Thus Israel said before The Holy One Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, you wrote in your Torah: (Leviticus 19:18) “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge,” but you take vengeance and bear a grudge, as it is said: (Nahum 1:2) “The Lord is vengeful and fierce in wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on His enemies.” The Holy One Blessed be He said to them: I wrote in the Torah: (Leviticus 19:18) “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen,” but I take vengeance against idol worshippers – (Numbers 31:2) “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites.” It is written: (Deuteronomy 6:16) “Do not test the Lord” – [but] “God tested Abraham.”
After these things — misgivings were experienced on that occasion. Who then had misgivings? Avraham, saying to himself: ‘I have rejoiced and made all others rejoice, yet I did not set aside a single bullock or ram for the Holy One of Blessing.’ Said the Holy One of Blessing to him: ‘I know that even if you were commanded to offer your only son to Me, you would not refuse.’ - this is according to Rabbi Eleazar who said that the employment of va-e-lohim where E-lohim would suffice, implies both God and God’s Court. It was the ministering angels who spoke thus: ‘This Avraham rejoiced and made all others rejoice, yet did not set aside for the Holy One of Blessing a single bullock or ram.’ Said the Holy One of Blessing to them: ‘Even if we tell him to offer his own son, he will not refuse.’ Itzchak and Ishmael were engaged in a dispute: the latter argued, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I was circumcised at the age of thirteen’; while the other retorted, ‘I am more beloved than you, because I was circumcised at eight days.’ Said Ishmael to him: ‘I am more beloved, because I could have protested, yet I did not.’ At that moment Itzchak exclaimed: ‘O that God would appear to me and bid me cut off one of my limbs! then I would not refuse.’ Said God: ‘Even if I bid you sacrifice yourself, you will not refuse.’ [Another version: Said Ishmael to him: ‘I am more beloved than you, since I as circumcised at the age of thirteen, but you were circumcised as a baby and could not refuse.’ Itzchak retorted: ‘All that you did lend to the Holy One of Blessing was three drops of blood. But look, I am now thirty-seven years old, yet if God desired of me that I be slaughtered, I would not refuse.’ Said the Holy One of Blessing ‘This is the moment!’ Straightway, “God tested Avraham”.]
בַּמָּה אֲקַדֵּם ה' אִכַּף לֵאלֹהֵי מָרוֹם (מיכה ו, ו ז), רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ דְּסִכְנִין בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי לֵוִי אָמַר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַדְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִין בְּמֵישַׁע מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב, שֶׁעָשָׂה מַעֲשֶׂה וְהֶעֱלָה אֶת בְּנוֹ לְעוֹלָה, אֲבָל אֵינוֹ מְדַבֵּר אֶלָּא בְּיִצְחָק, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: בַּמָּה אֲקַדֵּם ה' אִכַּף לֵאלֹהֵי מָרוֹם וגו' הֲיִרְצֶה ה' בְּאַלְפֵי אֵילִים בְּרִבְבוֹת נַחֲלֵי שָׁמֶן הַאֶתֵּן בְּכוֹרִי פִּשְׁעִי פְּרִי בִטְנִי חַטַּאת נַפְשִׁי, בְּיִצְחָק אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹא נַעֲשָׂה מַעֲשֶׂה קִבְּלוֹ כְּגוֹמֵר מַעֲשֶׂה, וּבְמֵישַׁע לֹא נִתְקַבֵּל לְפָנָיו.
וְהָאֱלֹהִים נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר גִּדְּלוֹ כַּנֵּס הַזֶּה שֶׁל סְפִינָה. רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר נִסָּה אוֹתוֹ בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ אוֹמְרִין הֲמָמוֹ עִרְבְּבוֹ וְלֹא הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ מַה לַּעֲשׂוֹת. וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי, אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן קָרְחָה בִּשְׁנֵי מְקוֹמוֹת דִּמָּה משֶׁה עַצְמוֹ לְאַבְרָהָם, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (משלי כה, ו): אַל תִּתְהַדַּר לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ וּבִמְקוֹם גְּדֹלִים אַל תַּעֲמֹד, אַבְרָהָם אָמַר הִנֵּנִי, הִנֵּנִי לִכְהֻנָּה, הִנֵּנִי לְמַלְכוּת, זָכָה לִכְהֻנָּה וְזָכָה לְמַלְכוּת. זָכָה לִכְהֻנָּה (תהלים קי, ד): נִשְׁבַּע ה' וְלֹא יִנָּחֵם אַתָּה כֹהֵן לְעוֹלָם. לְמַלְכוּת (בראשית כג, ו): נְשִׂיא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה. משֶׁה אָמַר (שמות ג, ד): הִנֵּנִי, הִנֵּנִי לִכְהֻנָה, הִנֵּנִי לְמַלְכוּת, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (שמות ג, ה): אַל תִּקְרַב הֲלֹם, אֵין קְרַב אֶלָּא כְּהֻנָּה, הֵיאךְ מָה דְאַתְּ אָמַר (במדבר א, נא): וְהַזָּר הַקָּרֵב יוּמָת, וְאֵין הֲלֹם, אֶלָּא מַלְכוּת, הֵיאךְ מָה דְאַתְּ אָמַר (שמואל ב ז, יח): כִּי הֲבִיאֹתַנִי עַד הֲלֹם.
And He said: Take, please, your son, etc. (22:2). Said God to him: ‘Take, I beg you" — please —Your son.’ ‘Which son? I have two sons’ he said. ‘Your only son,’ replied He. ‘This one is the only one of his mother, and this one is the only one of his mother.’ "The one you love"—‘Is there a limit to the affections?’ "Itzchak" said He. And why did God not reveal it to him without delay? In order to make him [Itzchak] even more beloved in his eyes and reward him for each and every word spoken. This agrees with the opinion of Rabbi Yohanan, who said: "Get out of your country" (Gen. 12:1) means from your province; “And from your kindred” (Gen. 12:1)—from your neighborhood; “And from your father’s house"(Gen. 12:1)—literally your father’s house. “To the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Why did He not reveal it to him there and then? In order to make it more beloved in his eyes and to reward him for each and every word said, and for each and every step taken. Rabbi Levi b. Hayata said: ‘Get you’ is written twice, and we do not know which was more precious [in the eyes of God] the first or the second. But when it is written, “And get you to the land of Moriah” (22:2) it follows that the second occasion was more precious than the first. "And go yourself to the land of Moriah" Rabbi Chiya Raba and Rabbi Yanai [disagree]: one says to the place from which instruction (hora’ah) goes out to the world, and the other says to the place from which awe (yirah) goes out to the world. Similarly regarding the Holy of Holies (devir), Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yanai [disagree]: one says from the place from which the commandments (dibra’ot) go out to the world, and one says from the place from which speech (dibur) goes out to the world. Similarly regarding the ark (aron), Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yanai [disagree]: one says to the place from which the light (ha’orah) goes out to the world, and one says to the place where awe (yirah) goes out to the world. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that from there the Holy One instructs [mor'eh] the nations of the world and brings them down [moridam] to Gehinnom. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, to the place which is aligned [ra'ui] with the Holy Temple above. Rabbi Yudan said, to the place where there will be an appearance [mar'eh] to you. Rabbi Pinchas said, to the place of the Master [marvatah] of the World. The Rabbis said, to the place where the incense is offered – this is what it says “…I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.” (Shir HaShirim 4:6) "And offer Him there as a burnt-offering (Gen. 22:2). Rabbi Yudan bar Simon said: He [Avraham] said to Him: ‘Master of the Universe! Can there be a sacrifice without a priest?’ The Holy One of Blessing replied ‘I have already appointed you to be a priest’ as it is written, ‘You are a priest for ever’ (Ps. 110:4). "On one of the mountains which I will tell you of (Gen. 22:2). Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili: The Holy One of Blessing first places the righteous in doubt and suspense, and then reveals to them the real meaning of the matter, as it is written "to the land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1); "On one of the mountains which I will tell you"; "And make to it the proclamation that I bid you (Jonah 3:2); similarly, "Arise, go out into the plain and I will there speak with you (Ezek. 3:22).
...And Avraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey (Genesis 22:3). Rabbi Simeon b. Yohai said: Love upsets the natural order, and hate upsets the natural order. Love upsets the natural order: "And Avraham rose early in the morning, etc".: surely he had plenty of slaves? But the reason was that love upset the natural order. Hate upsets the natural order: "And Bilam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey" (Num. 22:21): surely he had plenty of slaves? Hate, however, upsets the natural order. Love upsets the natural order: "And Yosef made ready his chariot, etc." (Gen. 46:29): yet surely Yosef had plenty of slaves? But love upsets the natural order. Hate upsets the natural order: "And he made ready his chariot" (Ex. 14:6); yet surely he had plenty of slaves? Thus hate upsets the natural order. Rabbi Simeon b. Yohai said: Let saddling counteract saddling. Let the saddling done by our father Avraham in order to go and fulfill the will of the One at whose word the world came into existence counteract the saddling done by Bilam in order to go and curse Israel. Let preparing counteract preparing. Let Yosef’s preparing [of his chariot] to meet his father counteract Pharaoh’s preparing to go and pursue Israel. Rabbi Ishmael taught: Let the sword of the hand counteract the sword of the hand. Let the sword taken in the hand of our father Avraham, as it says, "And Avraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son" (Gen. 22:10), come and counteract the sword grasped by Pharaoh’s hand when he said, "I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them" (Ex. 15:9). "And took two of his young men with him, and Itzchak his son." (Gen. 22:3) Rabbi Abbahu said: Two people behaved with derech eretz (decency), Avraham and Saul: Avraham, as it says, "And took two of his young men with him"; Saul, as it says, "And Saul … went, he and two men with him" (I Sam. 28:8). "And he cleaved the wood for the burnt-offering," (Gen. 22:3) Rabbi Hiyya b. Rabbi Yosei said in the name of Rabbi Meyasha, and it was also repeated in the name of Rabbi Benaiah: As a reward for the two cleavings with which our father Avraham cleaved the wood of the burnt-offering, he earned that God should cleave [divide] the Sea before his descendants, as it says, And the waters were divided (Ex. 14:21). Said Rabbi Levi: Enough of this! In truth Avraham acted according to his powers an the Holy One of Blessing according to His powers. "And he rose up, and went to the place." (Gen. 22:3) Avraham was rewarded for rising up and for going.