How many times have we come home after a hard day and taken it out on our spouses and kids? Sometimes the hardest test is keeping our anger at bay.
This week’s Torah portion is “Chayei Sara” (Genesis 23:1–25:18), and it begins with the death of Sara (and also includes the deaths of Abraham and Ishmael).
One of the opening commentaries on the Torah reading concerns Abraham. As we know, God gave Abraham 10 tests. The problem, however, is that we don’t know exactly what those 10 tests were! Abraham had more than just 10 challenges in his life. The unresolved question is which of those 10 challenges constituted the 10 official tests.
To cite one example of this dispute: Although most commentators hold that Abraham’s 10th and final test was the Akeida, the near-sacrifice of his son Isaac, others say that the 10th and final test was actually the episode of the burial of Sara.
How could the burial of Sara be harder than sacrificing Isaac?
Abraham was told to sacrifice his beloved son. He tied him up and almost slit his throat…until God told him that this was all just a test. This experience couldn’t have been easy on Abraham’s nerves and emotions. To make things worse, when Abraham returned home after this traumatic experience, he found that his wife Sara had died! To put it lightly: Abraham was having a bad day.
Abraham then had to make arrangements to bury Sara. Although God promised him the entire Land of Israel, Abraham was forced to pay top dollar for a grave site and negotiate with the famous crook, Ephron, to get it.
It is explained that this was the 10th and hardest test because Abraham had to control himself under tremendous stress.
Imagine how Abraham must have felt! So many difficult emotions and experiences in such a short period of time. This was the hardest day of his life. And how did he conduct himsef when forced into the difficult position of having to deal with Ephron in order to bury Sara? He acted with patience, kindness, and even respect. As the verse says, “And Avraham prostrated himself…” to Ephron. Even while Ephron was trying to con him, he kept his cool. He passed the test.
Sometimes when we’re having a bad day, we don’t pass the test. How many times have we come home after a hard day and taken it out on our spouses and kids? Sometimes the hardest test is keeping our anger at bay.
So the next time we’re having a bad day and feel like exploding on anyone we meet, let us remember Abraham and his 10th and final test. And let’s make sure that we don’t fail!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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