The Big EventBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Quite a lot happens in this parsha, but the undisputed climax occurs in this aliyah:
G-d appeared to Avraham and told him to bind Yitzchak as a sacrifice. (Please note the choice of words – it will be quite important later on!) This was quite bewildering, as G-d had promised Avraham that Yitzchak would be built into a great nation. Nevertheless, Avraham got up early and took Yitzchak, plus some attendants and fire wood, towards the place G-d would indicate. After a three-day journey, they came near the place. Avraham left the attendants with the donkey and he headed off with Yitzchak. As they were walking, Yitzchak asked the obvious question: they had fire and timber, but where was the animal to be sacrificed? Avraham assured Yitzchak that G-d would take care of that detail. (While Yitzchak is popularly depicted as a child, he was in fact 37 years old at this time. He also wasn’t stupid; he knew what was going on, yet he continued willingly.)
When they reached the site G-d had selected on Mount Moriah (future home of the Temple), Avraham built an altar and bound Yitzchak on it. (Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzchak was born; a 37-year-old can overpower a 137-year-old, if he’s so inclined.) Avraham was about to lower the knife, when G-d sent an angel to stop him. Avraham had proven to himself and to the world that he was willing to do whatever G-d commanded of him, even if it meant sacrificing his beloved son. (You will note that G-d had only commanded Avraham to bind Yitzchak as a sacrifice, not to actually sacrifice him. In this way, G-d’s command was actually fulfilled without harm befalling Yitzchak. Human sacrifice is actually one of the most reprehensible things to G-d.)
Avraham looked up and saw a ram stuck in a thicket by its horns. G-d had provided the sacrifice as Avraham had said! Because Avraham had said “G-d will see to it,” they called the place Hashem Yireh (“G-d will see”). Its original name was Shalem (Salem). Both names were combined to form “Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem).
The angel delivered another message from G-d: since Avraham did not hold back his only son with Sarah, G-d will increase Avraham’s descendants like the stars in the sky and the sands of the beach. The world would be blessed through Avraham’s descendants, because of his selfless act.
Avraham and Yitzchak rejoined the attendants and they returned to Be’er-Sheva. Some time later, Avraham was informed about the family of his brother Nachor. Among the news was the fact that Nachor’s son Besuel had a daughter, named Rivka. (Rivka will be very important in the next parsha.)