19 Oct VAYERA: IF LIFE IS EASY…
Akedat Yitzhak, when Avraham was commanded to sacrifice his son and he immediately complied – until at the last minute G-d told him to withdraw his knife, as this was just a test – marks the single greatest individual achievement in Jewish history. It is seen as the highest level of self-sacrifice for Hashem, the merits of which sustain us to this very day.
We need to ask, what makes akedat Yitzhak a greater display of self-sacrifice than the countless times in Jewish history when Jews surrendered their lives for their faith? There were many instances when Jews chose death over foreign worship. What is so unique about akedat Yitzhak?
Another question we might ask is, why did Avraham not say anything after receiving the command? The Torah tells that G-d spoke to Avraham and told him to travel to Jerusalem and sacrifice his son, and Avraham complied, without saying a word. Why?
The answer to both questions can be found in one word in this story which, I believe, is the key to this entire incident, and which really captures what every Jew should be aspiring to throughout his life.
Before G-d commanded Avraham to sacrifice his son, He called out to him, and Avraham replied, יננה†– “I am here.” This word means so much more than simply “I am here.” It means: “I am ready to do anything You ask me to do. I am prepared to accept any mission You assign to me, no matter how difficult it is. I am ready to accept any situation You put me in, without any questions or complaints.”
Because of this word, Avraham did not need to say anything else afterward. And it is because of this word that Avraham was able to fulfill this command without any hesitation, without flinching, without complaining – and that this incident represents the pinnacle of devotion to Hashem.
There are several reasons why complaining is not good. One is because it creates a negative mindset, which makes our lives unhappy. Complaining really does breed unhappiness. Secondly, other people HATE when we complain. Nobody likes to be around people who are always negative.
But thirdly, every complaint expresses a deficiency in one’s faith. Complaining means that we feel the situation should be different, that things are not the way they are supposed to be. But if we live with the mindset of יננה, then everything is EXACTLY the way it’s supposed to be. If we live with this mindset, we accept everything and anything as Hashem’s will, and we gladly accept the challenge, whatever it may be.
When we complain about a problem or struggle in our lives, what we are in essence saying is that our lives are really supposed to be perfect, without problems and without struggles. But this simply isn’t true. Life is supposed to be challenging. We are supposed to work hard and struggle to achieve.
As a community Rabbi, I know lots of people. Lots and lots and lots of people. And they all have one thing in common: THEY ALL HAVE PROBLEMS! There is not a single person I know who does not have something to complain about. Whether it’s finances, marriage, a child, a parent, an in-law, a neighbor, an associate, a health issue, a religious struggle – every single person has problems. And we are to live with the attitude of יננה†– understanding that Hashem gives us challenges, and being ready and willing to confront them to the best of our ability.
In September 2018, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a terrorist in Israel killed a well-known Israeli named Ari Fuld. After this tragedy, it was revealed that Ari, who worked very hard as a soldier in the Israeli army, and later helping soldiers, used to say: “If life is easy, you’re living it wrong.”
We are supposed to have challenges. So instead of complaining about them, let’s instead follow Avraham Avinu’s example and proudly proclaim יננה, accepting any challenge Hashem gives us as our mission to fulfill.