Don Isaac Abarbanel, leader of Spanish Jewry at the time of their expulsion, writes, "I saw many Jews, men, women, and even young children, tortured and burned at the stake in His Holy Name and I bear witness that at that time they did not scream or utter any expression of pain, but left this world in serenity and peace."
Where do Jews get that strength from? From Abraham.
“And it came to pass after these things, that G‑d tested Abraham, and He said to him, ‘... Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah, and bring him up there as an offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you....’”
Hashem begged Abraham - please pass this test! Abraham had passed many tests before — nine in total. As a young man, he entered into a fiery furnace instead of worshiping King Nimrod and was miraculously saved. Throughout his life, he had never questioned G‑d, despite his many difficulties and tests.
But the test of offering Isaac would be the clincher, because all the previous tests would be in vain, if he were not to pass this one.
With all the other tests, Abraham was proving a point. He was making a statement, publicizing his faith in the true G-d to the world. This test was opposite of all that Abraham stood for: that G-d is good and just, that He keeps His promises and that there’s a higher purpose for His world. Abraham waited so long for this child, whom he was promised was destined to continue his legacy. Isaac was supposed to be the one to continue Abraham’s mission of spreading Hashem’s name. And now, Abraham should go and destroy everything that he was building up?
And he wouldn’t even be demonstrating to the world what true faith was, to what extreme one should believe in G-d, because no one would be present.
And so, on that day, Abraham passed not one, but ten tests. Beforehand, one could say that he was fighting for what he believes in. He sees a purpose in his actions, he’s a zealot for his causes. Here, he was blindly following Hashem’s words, even if it went against all that he believed in. Now his faith was real.
In the end, G-d told him not to sacrifice Isaac. But the channel was opened for his descendants to transcend the limitations of what we think is right, and become chariots of Hashem’s will. Through him, we have the power to live as Jews, despite the challenges that G-d throws at us. This is the greatest miracle: that we are still Jews. It is beyond nature, beyond our human limitations.
Let's show how we live as Jews, by lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday before 4:23 PM!