Why was Akeidas Yitzchok a bigger test for Avraham than for Yitzchok?
Gershon Gold asked:1 The binding of Yitzchok ("Akeidas Yitzchok") was the hardest test that Hashem gave to Avraham. Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it. Then why is it considered a bigger test for Avraham than for Yitzchok?
zaq commented: I would much rather sacrifice myself to Hashem than my son, my only son, the one whom I love and will become a great nation through.
jake answered: This is discussed by Abarbanel (Bereshis 22). He explains previous commentators as understanding that Avraham's pain in killing his own son, although less than Yitzchak's pain of actually being killed, would last throughout the rest of his life, and thus would have been much worse than Yitzchak's pain. In his words:
ואם כן יצחק שמסר עצמו לשחיטה עם היות צער המות שלו יותר גדול מצער אביו שישחטהו הנה צערו לא היה מתמיד כי מיד שישחט לא ירגיש כלום ולא יצטער עוד. אבל הזקן ההורג את בנו יהיה צערו מתמיד ומרת נפשו קודם השחיטה ובעת השחיטה ואחריה כל ימי חייו יום ולילה לא ישבות. ולכן היה ראוי ליחס פלא המעשה הזה לאברחם ולא ליצחק
Yitzchak, who gave himself up for slaughter, even though his pain of death would be greater than that of his father's who would slaughter him, his pain would not be constant and continuing, since after he is killed he will not feel anything; his pain will be over. But the father who kills his son, his pain will continue, and his bitterness before, during, and after the act of slaughter will never rest. Therefore, it is appropriate to attribute the marvel and wonderment of this event to Avraham rather than to Yitzchak.
(I myself, however, disagree with the assumption that Avraham's pain would have been less than Yitzchak's at all. It makes more sense to me that it is harder to kill one's "only" son than to be killed himself.)
Abarbanel, however, feels that although the above may be true, Yitzchak should have at least been given some credit, while we don't really find that he is given much at all. Therefore, he disagrees with your basic assumption: "Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it." He believes, rather, that Yitzchak was unaware that he was going to be offered as a sacrifice until his father actually tied him onto the mizbeach (altar). Thus, he doesn't really deserve as much credit, since he did not actually go through with the plan willingly.
HodofHod added: The Tzemach Tzedek, in Derech Mitzvosecha 186b, brings this same question in the name of R' Menachem Mendel of Horodok.
ובזה ית' מה דקשיא טובא מדוע יחס הכתוב נסיון דעקידה לאברהם הלא יותר היה נסיון ליצחק וכדאי' קושיא זו בזהר שהרי יצחק הי' אז בן ל"ז שנה, ואילו לא רצה כו
He asks it much the same as you did, but he adds that Yitzchak was 37, and if he had not wanted to comply, he presumably could have resisted effectively.
R' Menachem Mendel answers that the main point of this story is not mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) at all. The Patriarchs were all "chariots" (completely subservient, as a chariot to the rider) to the Divine Will. Any one of them could, and would (and did), lay down their life for G-d. So the fact that Yitzchak did that is not so amazing, and further he may have asked for that test.
Jews of all levels have done that throughout our history, including Jews who, up until that moment, hadn't considered themselves Jewish at all. While self-sacrifice is a tremendous thing for us, for a Tzaddik it's practically peanuts. Being willing to sacrifice one's son, their only son, whom they love -- that's different. Especially for Avraham, who was the embodiment of the attribute of Chesed (kindness), this was in direct conflict with his essence.
R' Menachem Mendel actually adds, that despite that Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son for G-d, the most amazing thing about this story is that Avraham wasn't flustered or confused at all. After all, G-d had previously promised that He would make Yitzchak into a great nation, and now He was asking Avraham to sacrifice him!
וה"ז יכול לחשוב שזהו שינוי רצון וכתיב לא שניתי כו' ואברהם נתחזק ולא הרהר כלל
Avraham might have thought that this was a change in G-d's Will (and G-d has said "I haven't changed"), but nevertheless his faith was strong, and he had no doubts in G-d at all.
Menachem said: In a note to the Rada"l's commentary on the Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer (Chapter 31), the Rada"l addresses this issue.
He points out the Midrash that Rashi (Bereshit 22:1) quotes:
And some say,“ after the words of Ishmael,” who was boasting to Isaac that he was circumcised at the age of thirteen, and he did not protest. Isaac said to him,“ With one organ you intimidate me? If the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, ‘Sacrifice yourself before Me,’ I would not hold back.” - Cf. Gen. Rabbah 55:4.
G-d heard this and said, "Since Yitzchok had already agreed to sacrifice himself, this would be a good opportunity to test Avraham through Yitzchok." This wasn't Yitzchok's test, since he had already verbally requested it.
- Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/11101
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200