Which was more difficult for Abraham, leaving Haran or offering Isaac as a sacrifice? The symmetry of Torah and the commentaries of our sages connect the two in fascinating ways.
In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham is commanded to Lech Lecha, to go forth. In the Akidah, the binding of Isaac, Abraham is again commanded to Lech Lecha, go forth…the only other time it occurs in the text.
In this week’s Torah portion the destiny is shrouded in mystery, as Abraham is commanded to go to the “land that I will show you.” In the Akeidah? To the “mountain that I will show you.”
In this week’s Torah portion we get a threefold repetition of what was being sacrificed, each more difficult than the last in the commentary of Nachmanides: Leaving your country is easier than leaving your birthplace, which is easier than leaving your parents’ house. In the Akeidah, the same threefold repetition. Take your son, then your only son, and only then is Isaac named.
In Midrash, Rabbi Levi raises these commonalities. “Lech Lecha is written twice, (this whole narrative frame is used twice), and we do not know which was more precious to God.” The rest of his comment is unfortunately lost to history. We don’t know why Abraham was twice tested, nor which was more important to him or to God. What we do know is that life is often filled with difficult moments of transition, and we pray that they each work out as well for us as they did for Abraham.