“[B]ecause you have done this thing… I will surely bless you…” (Beresheet 22:16–17)
The trial of Avraham Avinu called Akeidat Yitzchak is considered the supreme test and epitomizes the Jew’s determination to serve Hashem no matter how difficult the circumstances. After meeting the challenge and overcoming the wiles of Satan, Avraham built an altar and bound his beloved son to be sacrificed. He held the knife and approached his son, ready to do the Will of his Creator. Then an angel called to him from Heaven and said, “Do not stretch your hand against the lad nor do anything to him — for now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me” (22:12). Avraham suddenly saw a ram entangled in a nearby bush and took it and offered it instead of his son. Only then did the angel declare,”…
[B]ecause you have done this thing… I will surely bless you…” (22:16–17).
Rav Itzele of Petersburg asks, “How come the angel blessed Avraham only after he offered the ram? How come he didn’t bless him immediately after the Binding of Yitzchak?”
Rav Itzele answers that the greatest part of the trial was after the successful performance of Hashem’s command. The test continued for another 38 years. Avraham had to hold back from saying, “Baruch Hashem, I did not have to slaughter my son!” Had he said that, he would have been rejecting the Will of Hashem! On the contrary, Avraham Avinu did all he could to fulfill the command of Hashem to the fullest. He wanted to at least draw a few drops of blood from Yitzchak Avinu but was commanded not to do so. When prevented from doing anything to his son, he troubled himself to complete the slaughter of the ram and with each step of the sacrificial service he said, “May it be the Will of Hashem that this action be considered as if it was done to my son” (Rashi, 22:13).
We might ask why Avraham toiled to do all of this. Rav Itzele explains that he did so in order to prevent thoughts from entering his mind that would suggest, “Baruch Hashem, I did not slaughter my son.” Satan tried to discourage Avraham by entangling the ram in the bushes to make it difficult to bring it to the altar (Rashi). We see that the essential test was not to regret or question the Akeidah. Therefore, the blessings were not bestowed upon Avraham until after he had sacrificed the ram and completed the substitution for his son.
The Mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha, Harav Nosson Wachtfogel, adds that the words of Rav Itzele will help us understand a Midrash that reveals that Avraham requested from Hashem that he never test him again after the Akeidah. Why wouldn’t he want more? He was aware that his success in the Akeidah stands as a protection for his offspring even until today. He knew that every test grows a person spiritually to new heights. He lived another 38 years — why wouldn’t he desire more growth through testing?
Avraham lived with the test of the Akeidah all the remaining days of his life. As he watched Yitzchak Avinu grow and mature, as he saw him grow in spirituality more and more with each passing day, he had to resist thinking, “It’s good that I didn’t kill him at the Akeidah. Look at the man the world would be missing.” Realizing the difficulty of controlling this “natural” feeling, he asked not to be tested above and beyond the constant battle he already faced.
Each of us has done good deeds in our service to Hashem and at times we have tripped. One sometimes fails to actualize a good intention and finds solace in the thought that in retrospect it is possibly better that one did not fulfill the Will of Hashem. One must understand that these types of thoughts are the work of Satan. A person should always desire to do the Will of Hashem with no consolation when one fails to do so. Try your best and pray for the help of Heaven in completing your service to your Creator.