Friday, November 2, 2012

The Ten Trials of Abraham

According to the Talmud (Avos 5:3), Abraham was tested ten times and he passed all of the tests. The purpose of these tests was to "to demonstrate how great was the love of Abraham our Father" for he never questioned God's judgment.

In his commentary on the Mishna, Maimonides lists the ten tests, all of which are clearly stated in the Torah:
  1. The command for Abraham to leave his home and live in a strange land. (12:1)
  2. The famine that occurred in the land of Canaan after God promised to make Abraham into a great nation in that land. (12:2-10)
  3. The violence of the Egyptians when they abducted Sarah. (12:14-20)
  4. The war with the four kings. (14)
  5. Marrying Hagar after giving up hope that Sarah would have children. (16:1-2)
  6. The commandment of circumcision in his old age. (17:1)
  7. The violence of the king of Gerar who also abducted Sarah. (20)
  8. Sending away Hagar after she had borne him a child. (21)
  9. The difficult commandment to send away his own son, Yishmael. (21)
  10. The binding of Isaac. (22)
There are several other opinions on the exact numeration of the ten tests. Many of these alternate lists include incidents that are not written explicitly in the Torah but are only known from midrashim (such as Abraham being thrown into the furnace in Ur Kasdim).

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