According to the Zohar, Abraham was tested ten times: the ninth test was sending away Ishmael. The tenth and most severe test was the direction to sacrifice Isaac.
This story questions what are you willing to give up to align with God. Where are you willing to listen to the voice of God and make a leap of faith?
I can think of pivotal moments in my life when I took a leap of faith: leaving everything I knew to travel to Peru when I was eighteen years old. Giving up my entre life and moving to New York City at age twenty-two. And many, many “tests” along the way: for artistic freedom, for career, to join this community, or follow that cause.
Almost all of these were done with the expectation of something in return: opportunity, spiritual advancement, more money, more power. These were compromises, not purely altruistic.
Even when facing a spiritual test, it’s safe to say those things I have done were to gain some new insight or experience; not to merely follow God’s command.
A good purity of action is to perform service for another person, particularly anonymously. Whether it’s a financial donation or contribution in-kind, this removes your ego out of the equation.
When Abraham makes the decision to go through with God’s command, God intervenes with a blessing.
It is notable that offering your first born as an ultimate sacrifice was not uncommon in Sumerian culture. By withholding the requirement from Abraham, God is establishing that he is not one of the old Gods of Sumer.
It’s also notable that the mountain on which this occurred was thenceforth called “The Lord Will Provide” – the ram that Abraham found in the thicket. The mountain was not called “Mount of the Loophole.”
This story is also interpreted that Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac:
He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”Genesis 22:5