Abraham spent his whole life teaching the message of the G-d of love and protesting against the idolaters’ cruel practice of sacrificing their children. Why would G-d ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? How would he ever face the world after committing the same crime as idolaters? Imagine the scandalous headlines of the Canaanite Times: “Abraham Big Phony: Sacrifices Son.”
In other words, Abraham was being asked to sacrifice his religion of love. The irony of his challenge was that this time his service to G-d was to sacrifice his service to G-d and sacrifice G-d’s reputation. Abraham could have argued with G-d and claimed, “My whole life’s mission has been to promote Your name, teach Your truth and inspire the world towards love and justice. If I do this, there will be no hope for the redemption of humanity and the revelation of Your presence on earth. You are asking me not only to put my son on that altar but also to put You on that altar.” Abraham, however, was surprisingly silent. He put his entire past, present and future upon the altar and was willing to perform the ultimate in self-sacrifice and love.
This story teaches us a lesson about the subtle differences between real love and selfish romance. Sometimes selfish motives are cleverly disguised in the garb of love. True love means I am willing to do what my beloved wants. But what if my beloved asks me to do something I really don’t want to do? What if my beloved asks me for a divorce? This is an opportunity for true love. Do you love her and, therefore, honor her request to part ways? If you do not, then this relationship was only about you. Your supposed beloved was only an object for you to feel good.
Abraham was a true lover of G-d. His love for G-d was completely selfless. He taught the world the truth about G-d only for the sake of G-d. If G-d wanted him to give up his rabbinical career, then he would say, “OK.” All that mattered to Abraham was to do G-d’s will—a sign of true love.
Imagine a rabbi who is doing a great job in inspiring people to return to the ways of G-d. He has a synagogue that is bursting at the seams, growing every day by the hundreds. He even has a tremendously successful daily TV show where he teaches the word of G-d to millions. Then one day G-d appears to him and tells him to quit. Even asks him to do something that would destroy his reputation and world influence. This is a great test. Is this rabbi teaching G-d’s truth for his own sake to make himself feel good? Is it just about his ego and he is selling G-d because it brings him so much power and recognition? Or is this rabbi truly devoted to G-d, and it is his love for G-d that motivates him and not the love for himself? If the latter is true, he will do the will of G-d no matter what the consequences.
This was the test of Abraham. It was the ultimate test of love.