Parshat Vayeira records G-d’s greatest test of Avraham’s faith (22:1) by ordering him to sacrifice his only son to G-d. Almost all the commentaries listing G-d’s ten trials list this one as the last. The first test was in Ur Kasdim, where Avraham stood up for his belief in G-d against other idols and was thrown into a furnace, where he was miraculously saved. The Lekach Tov wonders why the first test got an obscure one-line mention in the Torah (Genesis 15:7), when it seems as if that test would be more difficult, since G-d still hadn’t appeared to Avraham, and because he wasn’t actually commanded to risk life, yet he did. Why was the sacrificing of Yitzchok that much greater a test?
Rav Lapian answers that Avraham believed in G-d, and wanted to teach the world. To that end, throwing himself into burning flames would show the world the conviction of his beliefs, and would ultimately help validate his belief in G-d. However, if Avraham were to sacrifice and kill his only son, what would his countless followers say of him then? They would surely give up any religion that required sacrificing their own children. Or at least that’s what Avraham could have been thinking when G-d told him to kill his son. Instead, Avraham didn’t make excuses, didn’t rationalize ignoring G-d’s commandment, and accepted his orders completely, despite risking the efforts of over fifty years of his life. That was the real test, and that’s also our test today: To stand up and do what’s right, despite what others may say or think. As Jews, we should not only avoid reasons to ignore our convictions, but we should also be proud enough to show them.