middot equanimity torah Abraham lifted up his eyes...

Abraham lifted up his eyes...

Written by  rav rafael

God's final test for Avraham was the most unsettling of all the 10 tests.  God's request that Avraham sacrifice his son and give up his future went against the most fundamental traits in his personality.  What was Avraham known for?  Radical hospitality.  Our tradition teaches us that he and Sarah were the embassadors of kindness among all the people they sojourned with.  Of our ancestors, he and Sarah were the embodiment of chesed (kindness).  The tragedy of Avraham and Sarah's life was that until an old age, they had no children through which they could plant seeds of kindness into the world.  When God opened Sarah's womb and brought the miraculous birth of Isaac, Avraham's lifetime of service and faithfullness to the one true God met its reward.

After this bright future had been forged for Avraham, his greatest test was put before him.  God asked Avraham to go against every spark of kindness that he had sown in the world.

And it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham, and He said to him, "Abraham," and he said, "Here I am."  And He said, "Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you."  And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which God had told him.   On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.  (Genesis 22:1-4)

After a long life Avraham had the expectation of bestowing his legacy on his offspring who would ultimately grow into a nation of priests in the world.  In one long evening this future was apparently snatched away by God's request.  In our own lives we often build up expectations about our future, our friends, and what Hashem plans to give us along the way.  The greatest stretch of our equanimity is when those expectations are dashed.  How do we deal with our house of cards tumbling down?

Avraham shows us by example how he pushed through and faithfully believed in the best possible outcome, regardless of the discouragement set before him.  Instead of falling into a depression, he got up early in the morning to do God's bidding.  He saddled his own donkey rather than having a servant do it for him. This was uncommon for a man of his stature.  Isaac suspected something was not right.  When he inquired of his father we see Avraham holding onto the best possible outcome.

And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and he said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?". And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And they both went together. (22:7-8)

Avraham stayed cool.  He kept focused.  Even though I believe he held fear for the possibilities of this situation, our great patriarch held fast to the promises given him.  His vision was clear as he worked through his tenth and greatest test.

Here is a memory verse for us as we boost our own equanimity through life's tests.

"Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar"

When our expectations are dashed.  When our future seems obscured by a nearby crisis.  We need to do as Avraham did.  Raise up your eyes from the present moment and fill your view with the perspective you've gained to get you to that point.  Avraham knew of God's faithfulness which stood the test of time.  He didn't let the apparent tragedy of the present moment take control of him and remove his own faithfulness to his Creator.  Lift up your eyes.

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