Is the patriarch really a tzaddik? Is he going to be prepared to make a supreme effort for the Almighty?
The answer to both questions turns out to be “yes”.
The story requires Isaac to be part of the test, yet we do not read anywhere that “The Lord tested Isaac”.
Has Isaac no say in his own fate? God wishes to test the father, well and good: but why does Isaac have to be the one who might lose his life in the process?
The sages were not unaware of the problem, and in at least two crucial parts of the chapter they see Isaac acknowledging that he too is under scrutiny.
As Rashi puts it, the opening words, “After these things…” could mean, “After the words of Ishmael to Isaac”.
Ishmael, the older brother, boasts to Isaac that he underwent circumcision at an age when he felt the pain – “I did this for God,” says Ishmael, “But you, Isaac, what have you ever done for Him?”
Isaac answers, “You think you can taunt me about one small part of your body? If God asked me to give up my whole life for Him, I would not refuse!”
The rabbis also found an element of acquiescence on Isaac’s part in the boy’s question, “Father, here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (verse 7).
Abraham replies, “God will provide for Himself the lamb… my son”, which hints that Isaac might be the lamb.
The story continues, “They went on, both of them together” (verse 8), which implies that even now Isaac did not withdraw.
No-one wants to be a victim, but if the suffering is for the sake of God, the believer knows that to be his or her mitzvah. For examples, read Jewish history – any page at all.