Gavton Project
(א) וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃
(1) And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: ‘Abraham’; and he said: ‘Here am I.’
אחר הדברים האלה. יש מרבותינו אומרים אחר דבריו של שטן, שהיה מקטרג ואומר מכל סעודה שעשה אברהם לא הקריב לפניך פר אחד או איל אחד, אמר לו כלום עשה אלא בשביל בנו, אלו הייתי אומר לו זבח אותו לפני לא היה מעכב ויש אומרים אחר דבריו של ישמעאל שהיה מתפאר על יצחק שמל בן שלש עשרה שנה ולא מחה, אמר לו יצחק באבר אחד אתה מיראני, אלו אמר לי הקדוש ברוך הוא זבח עצמך לפני לא הייתי מעכב:
There are some Sages who say [that this event occurred] “After the words of Satan” who said accusingly [to God], “From all the feasts that Avraham prepared, he did not offer as sacrifice to You a single bull or ram.” He [God] responded to him, “He does everything for the sake of his son. Yet, if I were to say to him, ‘Sacrifice him to Me,’ he would not refuse.” There are those [other Sages] who say “After the words of Yishmael” who would boast to Yitzhak that he was circumcised when he was thirteen and did not resist. Yitzhak responded to him: “You try to intimidate me with one limb. If God would tell me, ‘Sacrifice yourself to Me,’ I would not refuse.”
הנני. כך היא עניתם של חסידים, לשון ענוה הוא ולשון זמון:
This is the response of the pious— an expression of humility and readiness.
נסה את אברהם כיון שיהיה בפעל אוהב וירא כמו שהיה בכח ובזה ידמה יותר לבוראו שהוא טוב לעולם בפועל כי אמנם הכונה במציא' האדם היתה שידמה לבוראו כפי האפשר כאשר העיד באמרו נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו:
נסה את אברהם, to demonstrate that Avraham’s love for G’d as well as his fear of G’d was not merely potential but actual, much as G’d goodness is not merely potential but actual. The purpose of man’s existence is to emulate the virtues of G’d, and by means of this “test” Avraham had an opportunity to demonstrate this. When G’d created man He had set Himself the objective of “let us make man in Our image etc.,” i.e. as much like Divine beings as is it possible for a creature to be . (Genesis 1,26)
ויהי אחר הדברים האלה, אחר מה שקרה לאברהם עם אבימלך וארכו לו שם הימים ובא לו לבאר שבע לגור שם היה הדבר הזה שנסה אלהים את אברהם בדבר בנו יחידו, וענין הנסיון קשה מאד לספרו על האל, כי הוא חוקר לב ומבין כליות וידע כי אברהם יעשה מצותו, ואם להודיע לבני עולם, הנה לא היה שם בעת העקדה אלא אברהם ובנו יצחק, כי אפילו נעריו שהלכו עמו לא ידעו בזה הדבר, ומי הודיע דבר זה לעולם, ואפילו היה הוא מספר מי מאמין לו; והאמת כי הנסיון הזה להראות לבני עולם אהבת אברהם השלמה, ולא נעשה לאותם הדורות אלא לדורות הבאים המאמינים בתורה שכתב משה רבינו מפי האל ובספוריה שיראו עד היכן הגיע אהבת אברהם לאל; וילמדו ממנה לאהבה את ה' בכל לבבם ובכל נפשם, כי אברהם היה אוהב את יצחק יותר מנפשו כי הוא היה זקן, ואם ימות הוא, ימות בטבעו בשיבה טובה זקן ושבע ימים אבל בנו היה נער ועדיין לא היה לו אשה ובנים ולא נהנה מן העולם, ואם ימות הוא יהיה הדבר קשה לאברהם מאד. ועוד שהיה לו בן זקונים, וכשאמר לו האל שיעלהו שם לעולה היתה כל אהבה והחבה כאין בעיניו, ולא שאל ולא נסה, הלא אמרת כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע, אלא כיון שאמר לו האל עשה כך, מיד השכים ומהר לעשות רצון האל, ולא חשב שום אהבה כנגד אהבתו, ובאמת קודם שנכתבה התורה וספוריה היה הדבר הגדול הזה מסור לזרע אברהה יצחק ויעקב כי יצחק מסר ליעקב ויעקב לבניו, ואחר שנכתבה התורה לבני יעקב נתפרסם הדבר בעולם יש מאמינים ויש שאינם מאמינים. והיום כמה שנים מיום שבטלה עבודת הצלמים והאלילים מאמינים רוב העולם בתורת משה רבינו ובספוריה, אלא שחולקים עלינו על המצות, שאומרים כי דרך משל נאמרו. ובהאמין רוב בני העולם הספור הגדול הזה הוא עדות גדולה על אברהם אבינו שהיה אוהב האל אהבה שלמה ותמה וראוי לאדם ללמוד הימנו דרך אהבתו.
ויהי אחר הדברים האלה, after what happened to Avraham with Avimelech and as a result of his pact he had resided among the Philistines for many years, so that he had decided to migrate to Beer Sheva. At that point he received the instruction from G’d concerning his only son (by Sarah). It is very difficult to explain the matter of G’d’ “testing” someone, seeing that G’d knows in advance what the result of such a test is going to be. What then is the point of such a test? If the point was to demonstrate to the world at large that Avraham successfully passed such a test, how could this be accomplished in a setting where only Avraham and Yitzchok were present? He had even left the lads who had accompanied him behind so that there were no witnesses whatsoever to his carrying out a command which he had not even told Yitzchok about until the last possible moment! Even if Avraham had told someone what had transpired on the mountain, who would have believed him? The truth is that the purpose of the trial was to demonstrate to the world Avraham’s love for G’d. It was not meant to demonstrate anything to the generation during which Avraham lived, but to prove this to subsequent generations of people who believed in the Torah which was handed down to us by Moses at the command of G’d Himself. All that is written in the Torah [including such stories as that of Bileam and Balak, none of which had been witnessed by any Jew alive at that time, Ed.] is meant to teach the extent to which we are expected to demonstrate our love for G’d if and when the occasion arises. We know that Avraham loved Yitzchok more than he loved himself, seeing that he was already old and did not expect anymore out of life. If Yitzchok were to die at that time before he had married and raised a family, he would not have enjoyed any true satisfaction in his life on earth. This thought must have been very upsetting for his father Avraham. If he was nonetheless prepared to carry out G’d’s command without hesitation this was indeed a feat that all his descendants would marvel at. The fact that Avraham, who had prayed to G’d for sinners to be given a reprieve, did not even pray to G’d to spare the life of Yitzchok until he had at least married and started to raise a family, is meant to be an inspiration to all of us. Moreover, G’d Himself had provided Avraham with arguments which would have entitled him to at least defer sacrificing Yitzchok since he had told him that he, Avraham, would be known in history through Yitzchok. How could such a promise be fulfilled if Yitzchok were to die now? This story became the powerful message which Yitzchok transmitted to his son Yaakov, and which Yaakov transmitted to his sons. After the Torah was committed to writing the story became famous throughout the world, some people believing it, others not. Nowadays, after primitive paganism has ceased to exist in most of civilised society, most of mankind believes the story recorded in the Bible without hesitation. If large sections of mankind express some doubts about what is written in the Torah this concerns only whether everything written in the Torah as fact needs to be understood as historical, literal truth, or if many stories are to be understood as allegorical, but conveying the same ethical and moral messages. Similarly, these doubters believe that many of the practical commandments in the Torah were not meant to be fulfilled literally, but were examples demonstrating G’d’s attitude to certain problems confronting man. The very fact that the majority of mankind does believe that Avraham did what the Torah writes he did, is proof that Avraham had lived the kind of life which inspired man to believe that one can love G’d more than anything else in the universe.
והאלהים נסה את אברהם - קנתרו וצערו, כדכתיב: הנסה דבר אליך תלאה. על נסותם את ה'. מסה ומריבה בחנני ה' ונסני. כלומר: נתגאיתה בבן שנתתי לך לכרות ברית ביניכם ובין בניהם. ועתה לך והעלהו לעולה וראה מה הועילה כריתות ברית שלך! וכן מצאתי אח"כ במ' של שמואל: ויהי ארון ה' בארץ פלשתים שבעה חדשים. כתב: את שבע כבשות הצאן תקח מידי. אמר לו הקב"ה את נתת לו שבע כבשות, חייך, שבניו עושים שבע מלחמות עם בניך ונוצחין אותן. דבר אחר: חייך, שבניו הורגים שבע צדיקים מבניך ואלו הן: שמשון, חפני, ופנחס, שאול, ושלשה בניו. דבר אחר: חייך שבניו מחריבים שבע משכנות, ואלו הן: אהל מועד, וגלגל, נוב, ושילה, וגבעון, ובית עולמים תרין. דבר אחר: שארון מחזר בשדה פלשתים שבעה חדשים.
והאלוקים נסה את אברהם, G’d now subjected Avraham to a painful test, something which was bound to cause him grief. Whenever the root נסה occurs, such as in Job 4,2 or Exodus 17,7 or Psalms 26,2 the connotation is an unpleasant one for the one being subjected to it. In this instance, G’d, so to speak, indicated to Avraham that he had been foolish to think that he could guarantee’s Yitzchok’s and his descendants well being into the future, as he might have to terminate his life before he even had produced any offspring who would be called upon to honour his father’s deal with Avimelech. We find that the ark of the covenant spent seven months in Philistine captivity as a result of Avraham having made such an unauthorised pact with Avimelech (Samuel I 6,1). The seven months corresponded to the seven sheep Avraham had gratuitously given to Avimelech. G’d swore that as a result the Philistines would fight seven wars against the Israelites in which they would be victorious. These wars occurred during the time of Shimshon, Chofni, Pinchos, Sha-ul, and the three sons of Sha-ul who were killed. Another approach: as a result of Avraham’s high-handed act seven altars (public altars equivalent of temples) were destroyed by the enemies of the Jewish people after they entered the Holy Land Land, They were: Moses’ Tabernacle, Gilgal, Nov, Shiloh, Givon and the two Temples in Jesrusalem. (copied from Midrash Shemuel by the editor of Rash’bam) According to still another version G’d’s ark would repose in the land of the Philistines for 7 months.
נסה - קונטר אריא"ה.
ה' נסה, the words mean קונטריה, “G’d rebuked Avraham.”

(ב) וַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּ֑ה וְהַעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה עַ֚ל אַחַ֣ד הֶֽהָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃

(2) And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’

קח נא. אין נא אלא לשון בקשה, אמר לו בבקשה ממך עמוד לי בזה הנסיון, שלא יאמרו הראשונות לא היה בהן ממש:
Na is an expression of a request. He [God] said to him, “I plead with you, withstand this test so that no one can say that the first [tests] were not real.”
את בנך. אמר לו שני בנים יש לי, אמר לו את יחידך, אמר לו זה יחיד לאמו וזה יחיד לאמו, אמר לו אשר אהבת, אמר לו שניהם אני אוהב, אמר לו את יצחק ולמה לא גלה לו מתחלה, שלא לערבבו פתאום, ותזוח דעתו עליו ותטרף, וכדי לחבב עליו את המצוה ולתן לו שכר על כל דבור ודבור:
He [Avraham] responded, “I have two sons.” He [God] said to him, “Your only one.” He responded, “This one is an only son to his mother and the other is an only son to his mother.” He [God] said to him, “Who you love.” “I love them both,” he [Avraham] answered. Then, He said, “Yitzhak!” Why didn’t God reveal this from the beginning? So as not to confuse him suddenly, and he become bewildered and deranged. And, also, so that he value the mitzvah and he would get the reward for each and every expression.
ארץ המוריה. ירושלים, וכן בדברי הימים (ב' ג א) לבנות את בית ה' בירושלים בהר המוריה ורבותינו פרשו על שם שמשם הוראה יוצאה לישראל. ואונקלוס תרגמו על שם עבודת הקטורת שיש בה מור נרד ושאר בשמים:
[This refers to] Jerusalem. As in II Chronicles 3:1, “To build the House of God in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” Our rabbis explained [that it is called this] because from there instruction (lit. “Torah”) goes forth to Israel. Onkelos’ translation is based on the incense service which contains myrrh, nard, and other spices.
המוריה - האמוריה, ארץ האמורי. הרבה אלפי"ן חסרים. וימש חושך כמו ויאמש. לא יהל. כמו לא יאהל שם ערבי.
המוריה, same as האמוריה, “the land of the Emorite.” It happens frequently that the letter א is missing, just as in our verse. One such example is found in Exodus 10,21 וימש חשך, where the word וימש should really have been ויאמש חשך, “causing darkness.” Another example of the letter א being missing is found in Isaiah 13,20, where instead of לא יהל we would have expected לא יאהל, “he will pitch his tent.”
ויאמר...את יחידך, even though he is your only one and you love him very much as he has been born to you by your beloved wife when both of you were already well into your old age, and although My request is a very difficult one, I am asking you to do this.
ולך לך, this phraseology is quite common. We have encountered it in 12,1, in Jeremiah 5,5, in Exodus 18,27 as well as in Numbers 22,34 and again in Genesis 45,19. There are more such examples.
אל ארץ המריה, Jerusalem and district are referred to as ארץ המריה, and this is why the mountain on which Yitzchok was bound is also known by that name. Compare Chronicles II 3,1 לבנות בית ה' בירושלים בהר המריה, “to build the House of G’d in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” Our sages, as quoted by Rashi, say that the name reflects the fact that G’d’s instructions to man are issued from that mountain. [the seat of the Jewish Supreme Court which decides when there is any doubt about the authenticity of Torah legislation. Ed.] Onkelos translates the term as לארעא פלחנא, “the land where the priests perform service.”
על אחד ההרים, even now G’d did not tell Avraham precisely on which mountain he was to offer up Yitzchok as a burnt offering. Instead, G’d only said:
אשר אמר אליך, just as at the time when Avraham had been told to leave Charan and move to the Land of Canaan in 12,1 he had been told only to move to a country which G’d would specify later on. At that time Avraham had correctly assumed that he was to set out in the direction of the Land of Canaan. The absence of this detail in both instances was to show us the readers that instead of questioning G’d on details, Avraham set out to undertake difficult tasks without looking for any excuse to delay carrying out G’d’s instructions. It would have been so easy to ask G’d why, if he was to offer Yitzchok as a sacrifice, he first had to travel a long distance to the site where this was to take place. After all, we are speaking about a man of 137 years of age. Actually, if we do not err, G’d had two good reasons why He told Avraham what to do in such an ambivalent fashion. Firstly, to give Avraham additional credit for complying with a command which was wrapped in a riddle, without questioning G’d about it. If G’d had asked him to do this at once near his home, Avraham would not have had time to recover from the initial shock after hearing G’d’s instructions. If, after having had time to digest the implications of what had been asked of him, Avraham proceeded without hesitating, this is even more to his credit. The second reason why G’d worded the instructions in the manner in which the Torah records them, is to teach us that the site where this binding eventually took place is such a holy site; moreover after Avraham named the site, we know that it is one where the attribute of Justice may be changed to the attribute of Mercy due to the manner in which man relates to G’d’s commands. Not only that, but man learned that sometimes the intention behind an action is worth more to G’d than the action itself, so that the binding of Yitzchok rated in G’d’s eyes as if his father had actually sacrificed him.