Once again this week’s Parsha test many of the characters. We have Sara being tested by being barren and figuring out how to deal; what to do when she gives over her servant Hagar, who almost immediately becomes pregnant; what to do when Hagar’s son is intimidating (or playing with inappropriately) the child she is bares; being told that she will give birth even in her old age, and actually becoming a mother.
We have Hagar being tested of how to deal with Sara; what will she do with her new power of being the one who gets pregnant; what to do when she is banished from the house, not once by twice; how to care for her son in times of pain.
Yishmael is the first-born, but was probably aware of his family situation. He had to figure out how to live after being cast out of his family’s home, and living in the desert. It seemed that his mother had a lot of hopes and dreams for him, and was quite close (not that it is a bad thing), so he had to figure out how to keep up her spirits as well.
Yitzchak has to hold his own while having the tense family home around him; who knows what his brother Yishmael was doing to him, but he had to potentially stand up to a bully, as well as learn how not to act like him. And as for the most famous story, how to just follow his father, allow himself to be bound to an altar, and potentially sacrificed to God.
Abraham has to figure out how to deal with his wife who is in pain; how to have a relationship with a woman who was given to him, but is also the mother of his first-born; how to love his children even if there are greater problems; running out to greet the “angels” that came to his house; Lot and Sodom, and fighting for the rights of others; and obviously the most well-known test, the akeida.
Looking at life today, the question is what are our tests and how will we live up to them. How are we supposed to act towards people who are out to hurt us? How can we learn to be angry only at the ones who are acting instead of anyone that might be part of the community? What can I do to make my community/country/the world a better place? When should I fight? How do I deal with big changes in life, that mean moving to another country? How do we show love and care to people when then need it? Can I ever notice if an angel comes to visit me? What do I do with any pain/suffering/hurt/frustration that might come my way? How do I know that I am following in the right path/doing what I am meant to be doing?