Experiences in the Hebrew Bible are very common for some characters. As a Biblical Hebrew Teacher I always share with my students my first experience of the bible in high school when we learned about Isaac's ordeal story in Genesis 22. A question that is greatly asked is why do we need those experiences in our life? Why did Abraham need ten different tests in order to show his belief in G-d?
If we look at the first experience vs the tenth one- which is more difficult? To leave the known for the unknown or to leave your son as a sacrifice to G-d?
Let us see the verses, as written:
"וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה. וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה"
"Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
"וַיְהִי, אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וְהָאֱלֹהִים נִסָּה אֶת-אַבְרָהָם; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי. וַיֹּאמֶר קַח-נָא אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר-אָהַבְתָּ, אֶת-יִצְחָק, וְלֶךְ-לְךָ, אֶל-אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה; וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם, לְעֹלָה, עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים, אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ"
"Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:1-2)
In both of the tests Abraham needed to go from a place that he is aware of to a place that is new to him. Once you learn Biblical Hebrew you can see that the expression "lech lechah" repeats in the verses above. When you must go to the unknown and you are committed to the the one that examines you, what we call in our slang, the tester, you want to succeed even if the exam is not fair, even if it seems to be too hard for you and your soul, especially when you are the only one that is tested.
However, Abraham could pass the exam because he had something that people today might have forgotten- he believed in himself- he knew that he can face anything and he did it.
When I think about other exams in the Old Testament I really like the passage in Deuteronomy that speaks of the false dreamer.
Let us see the verses:
"כִּי-יָקוּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ נָבִיא, אוֹ חֹלֵם חֲלוֹם; וְנָתַן אֵלֶיךָ אוֹת, אוֹ מוֹפֵת. וּבָא הָאוֹת וְהַמּוֹפֵת, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֵלֶיךָ לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְדַעְתָּם--וְנָעָבְדֵם. לֹא תִשְׁמַע, אֶל-דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא, אוֹ אֶל-חוֹלֵם הַחֲלוֹם, הַהוּא: כִּי מְנַסֶּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֶתְכֶם, לָדַעַת הֲיִשְׁכֶם אֹהֲבִים אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם. אַחֲרֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ, וְאֹתוֹ תִירָאוּ; וְאֶת-מִצְוֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ, וְאֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹדוּ וּבוֹ תִדְבָּקוּן. וְהַנָּבִיא הַהוּא אוֹ חֹלֵם הַחֲלוֹם הַהוּא יוּמָת, כִּי דִבֶּר-סָרָה עַל-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וְהַפֹּדְךָ מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים--לְהַדִּיחֲךָ מִן-הַדֶּרֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בָּהּ; וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ"
"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you."(Deuteronomy 13:1-6)
If we wish to success in our lives, we must have a dream, as Martin Luther King said, but don’t forget, dear friends-that the dream should be a true one or something that we believe in our hearts that it can and will be a reality. If this is a false dream- as we can see in the passage above – we must drive it out of our hearts mentally, not physically.
One of our main exams in life, I believe, is that we all need to enjoy the ocean of Hebrew. I invite you all to be a part of our community – on our Facebook fan Pages, in our Webinars and more- Everyone deserves this Holy Language with the best teachers.
Hope to see you with us, we will help to succeed in this test, Eli