Throughout the first few Parshiyot of Sefer BeReishit, Hashem tests Avraham in several ways. Avraham is tested ten times, and he passes each one. The final test is the Akeidah, Hashem commanding Avraham to sacrifice his beloved son Yitzchak, the most difficult and demanding test, as Avraham was forced to lose his son to demonstrate his faith in Hashem.
Surprisingly, Rav Eliahu Dessler, in his Sefer Michtav MeEliahu, offers a different approach in viewing the tenth test. He lists the Akeidah as the ninth test, but if this is correct, what is the tenth test?
Rav Dessler concludes (based on Rabbeinu Yonah to Avot 5:3) that the opening story of Parshat Chayei Sarah is Avraham’s tenth test. The Pesukim describe Avraham’s business deal with Ephron, a greedy salesman, to buy Ma’arat HaMachpeila. Despite Ephron’s greedy character, Avraham does not yell or argue with Ephron. It must have been challenging for Avraham to handle Ephron’s greediness considering that Sarah just died, and he is desperate for a place to bury her. Thus, Avraham’s tenth test is conducting himself in a respectful and calm manner despite the urge to act angrily.
Rav Yissocher Frand tells a story that adds to the purpose of the last test. One night after his wife died, Rav Shlomo Zalman stood in the hospital hall and received surprising news from one of his Talmidim. The Talmid’s wife had just given birth in the same hospital, and the Talmid informed Rav Shlomo Zalman of the exciting news. However, the Talmid was so excited about the birth that he forgot to ask Rav Shlomo Zalman why he was also at the hospital. Rav Shlomo Zalman, out of joy for the Talmid congratulated his disciple and gave him a blessing. Although Rav Shlomo Zalman was most likely distraught due to his wife’s passing, he still refused to lessen his Talmid’s joy. Similarly, Avraham did not argue and fight with Ephron, even though Ephron was a greedy salesman and Avraham needed a plot in which to bury Sarahh.
Rav Dessler’s explanation of Avraham’s tenth test teaches us a vital lesson. Even in circumstances in which we are upset or angry, it is important that we control our emotions and do not allow emotions to take control of us. We must always act respectfully, no matter the conditions. Hopefully, if we are faced with a challenge similar to Avraham’s test with Ephron, we will react the same way Avraham did and thereby pass the challenge.