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Greatest Test of All

Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

At the beginning of Parshat Chayei Sarah, we find Abraham in an extremely difficult situation. He has just gone through the enormous stress of binding his son Isaac on the altar, followed by the emotional release of God's instruction not to go through with it in the end!

To compound his stress, Abraham returns home to find that his beloved wife Sarah has passed away. And on top of it all, Abraham now has to buy a gravesite from a man named Efron, who takes advantage of Abraham and charges an exorbitant price.

This is the epitome of a "bad day." And Abraham has every excuse in the world to be aggravated, to lose patience, and to lash out at Efron.

But Abraham - the expert in kindness - treats Efron with all the honor and dignity. Abraham understood that just because you're in pain, it doesn't give you the right to make the other person suffer.

The Talmud says that God gave Abraham 10 tests of character. It is generally understood that these tests were all designed to go against Abraham's natural inclination toward kindness - in order to strengthen his "weaker side" of strictness. Thus the ultimate test was the antithesis of kindness, the binding of Isaac.

But one commentator, Rabbeinu Yona, says that buying the gravesite from Efron - where Abraham reached super-human heights of patience and kindness - was actually Abraham's greatest test of all.

The idea is that to become a truly great person, besides working on our weak areas, we mustn't forget to build our unique strengths, too.

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