and impressive as possible. But if he happens to meet his prospective boss while shopping, without knowing who he is, he will not come across as impressive. The same is true about the tests in life. If somebody has surgery scheduled for the following week, and was told that the recovery will be slow and painful, the process will certainly pose a difficult test, but at least he can mentally prepare himself for it. He can use the time to tell himself to be strong, to consult with people who have gone through the process, and to receive encouragement from friends and family. By the time he goes in for this major test of life, he is well prepared to handle it.
When Avraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, he immediately understood that this was a test. He knew this was a major event that would have ramifications for countless generations. He knew the cameras were on him, soto-speak, that this was a singular event that demanded mustering all his strength and drawing from his deep wellsprings of faith. There was no question that this was a time for him to shine. But then there are the “little” tests in life, the ones we don’t expect, cannot anticipate, and do not necessarily recognize as tests. A man rushes out of the house to get to work for an important meeting, and he sees he has a flat tire. A woman is looking forward to an enjoyable lunch with some friends, but gets a call from the school nurse that her son is sick and being sent home. A child is playing ball in the house and breaks an expensive lamp. And so on and so forth. Everyone can think of many little bumps in the road that they encounter almost on a daily basis. Seldom, if ever, is life perfectly smooth. There are so many small mishaps that test our patience and our middot. So, which is the greater test – a major operation and eight-week recovery, or a flat tire? On the one hand, the operation is clearly more difficult and has a far more significant effect on one’s life, but on the other hand, the flat tire does not immediately strike us as a test. The everyday bumps on the road challenge us specifically because they are normal, everyday occurrences. We cannot mentally prepare ourselves for the flat tire or the babysitter’s last minute cancellation. We have to remain calm and accept the situation without having a chance to think things over. So yes, in a sense, this is a greater challenge than the operation. According to Rabbenu Yonah, this was true of Avraham Avinu, as well. Akedat Yitzhak was clearly a dramatic and historic event that he knew required him to rise to the occasion. But when he had trouble buying a plot of land, this was a “normal” hurdle to overcome. And thus in one sense, it was even more impressive that Avraham did not fall apart or even flinch, and accepted everything calmly and with unwavering faith in Gd. We might compare Avraham’s final two tests to fireworks and a streetlamp. Which is more impressive? On the one hand, of course, fireworks are far more dramatic, lighting the sky in a dazzling array