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Akeidas Yitzchok was the hardest test that Hashem gave to Avraham. Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it. Then why is it considered a bigger test for Avraham than for Yitzchok?

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I would much rather sacrifice myself to Hashem than my son, my only son, the one whom I love and will become a great nation through. – zaq Nov 4 '11 at 13:37

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This is discussed by Abarbanel (Bereshis 22). He explains previous commentators as understanding that Avraham's pain in killing his own son, although less than Yitzchak's pain of actually being killed, would last throughout the rest of his life, and thus would have been much worse than Yitzchak's pain. In his words:

ואם כן יצחק שמסר עצמו לשחיטה עם היות צער המות שלו יותר גדול מצער אביו שישחטהו הנה צערו לא היה מתמיד כי מיד שישחט לא ירגיש כלום ולא יצטער עוד. אבל הזקן ההורג את בנו יהיה צערו מתמיד ומרת נפשו קודם השחיטה ובעת השחיטה ואחריה כל ימי חייו יום ולילה לא ישבות. ולכן היה ראוי ליחס פלא המעשה הזה לאברחם ולא ליצחק

Yitzchak, who gave himself up for slaughter, even though his pain of death would be greater than that of his father's who would slaughter him, his pain would not be constant and continuing, since after he is killed he will not feel anything; his pain will be over. But the father who kills his son, his pain will continue, and his bitterness before, during, and after the act of slaughter will never rest. Therefore, it is appropriate to attribute the marvel and wonderment of this event to Avraham rather than to Yitzchak.

[I myself, however, disagree with the assumption that Avraham's pain would have been less than Yitzchak's at all. It makes more sense to me, as @zaq wrote in the comments, that it is harder to kill one's "only" son than to be killed himself.]

Abarbanel, however, feels that although the above may be true, Yitzchak should have at least been given some credit while we don't really find that he is given much at all. Therefore, he disagrees with your basic assumption: Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it. He believes, rather, that Yitzchak was unaware that he was going to be offered as a sacrifice until his father actually tied him onto the mizbeach. Thus, he doesn't really deserve as much credit, since he did not actually go through with the plan willingly.

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Isaac, at 37, couldn't figure it out on the way? Plus, he couldn't have overpowered (not that he would) his 137-year-old father? Whew, that's an interesting Abarbanel. – HodofHod Nov 4 '11 at 18:18
@HodofHod, or 13, depending on how you read the timing. – Monica Cellio Nov 4 '11 at 18:31
@HodofHod, your concerns are addressed by Abarbanel (bottom of second column in the link). – jake Nov 4 '11 at 19:55
jake. Just to make sure I'm understanding him properly, he's saying that Yitzchak thought it was a show? It was all to be strictly symbolical? – HodofHod Nov 4 '11 at 21:39
@HodofHod, As fall as I can tell, yes. Yitzchak thought this whole episode was symbolic as setting him up to be "sacrificed" to God, in that he would dedicate the rest of his life to the service of God. It never even occurred to Yitzchak that Avraham intended to actually sacrifice him, which makes sense. If your father took you out to the mountains, even though you were alone and brought along appropriate materials for sacrifice, would you think for a second that he would actually slaughter you? – jake Nov 6 '11 at 0:04

I would argue with the assumption that it was a bigger test for Avraham (unless you have a source other than those commentaries that accept the assumption in answering the question). Twice in the tefillos of the Yamim Noraim we refer to the akeida as a zechus of Yitzchok ("u'vben hane'ekad yashbis m'dayneinu" and "v'akeidas Yitzchok lzaroh hayom brachamim tizkor") and don't connect it to Avraham, and no other zechus is related to Yitzchok - it seems to be his biggest. (Acc. to the Ramban, Ibn Ezra who assumes Yitzchak was too young to fight back for the reasons that led to the question either changed or had a different version of those lines of the tefillah.)

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Yitzchok was 37. I doubt he was too young to fight. Perhaps in deference to his father he did not fight. – Gershon Gold Jan 17 '14 at 19:46
The Ibn Ezra to which I was referring argues with the assumption that Yitzchak was 37. He estimates him to have been around 12. If he was indeed 37, I think it was in deference to G-d's commandment that he did not fight back. – yEz Jan 17 '14 at 19:47
This is true. Let's not forget the Gemara about Yitzchock bailing out Klal Yisroel with this Zechus. – HaLeiVi Jul 7 at 4:30

My Rebbe said that It's harder to live al kiddush Hashem than to die al kidush hashem.

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Has he tried both? – Double AA Apr 15 '13 at 1:25
he might have quoted some rabbi which i fergot. – shlomo Apr 15 '13 at 2:27
It is a well known statement. It is also a matter of logic. After death there are no more trials. To continue living requires a constant effort. – sabbahillel Jun 3 '14 at 12:44
The gemara says had chananya mishael and azarya been subjected to torture, they would have succumbed. Choosing an instant death is easier. – user6591 Mar 26 at 0:41

The Tzemach Tzedek, in Derech Mitzvosecha 186b brings this same question in the name of R' Menachem Mendel of Horodok. He asks it much the same as you did, but he adds that Yitzchak was 37, and if he had wanted to.....:

ובזה ית' מה דקשיא טובא מדוע יחס הכתוב נסיון דעקידה לאברהם הלא יותר היה נסיון ליצחק וכדאי' קושיא זו בזהר שהרי יצחק הי' אז בן ל"ז שנה, ואילו לא רצה כו

R' Menachem Mendel answers that the main point of this story is not "mesirus nefesh" (self-sacrifice) at all. The Patriarchs were all "chariots" (completely subservient, as a chariot to the rider) to the Divine Will. Any one of them could, and would (and did), lay down their life for G-d. So the fact that Yitzchak did that is not so amazing. (Plus, as @Menachem says in his answer, Yitzchak may have even asked for this test).

(Jews of all levels have done that throughout our history, including Jews who, up until that moment, hadn't considered themselves Jewish at all. While self-sacrifice is a tremendous thing for us, for a Tzaddik its practically peanuts. Being willing to sacrifice one's son, their only son, whom they love - that's different. Especially for Avraham, who was the embodiment of the attribute of Chesed (kindness), this was in direct conflict with his essence).

R' Menachem Mendel actually adds, that despite that Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son for G-d, the most amazing thing about this story is that Avraham wasn't flustered or confused at all. After all, G-d had previously promised that He would make Yitzchak into a great nation, and now He was asking Avraham to sacrifice him!

וה"ז יכול לחשוב שזהו שינוי רצון וכתיב לא שניתי כו' ואברהם נתחזק ולא הרהר כלל

Avraham might have thought that this was a change in G-d's Will (and G-d has said "I haven't changed"), but nevertheless his faith was strong, and he had no doubts in G-d at all.

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Another point is that sacrificing Yitzchak would have destroyed Avraham's mission to the world. THus, his "G0d" asking for human sacrifice would have meant that he was no more than another cultist and all the converts that he had made would leave him and no one would ever listen to him again. It is harder to live one's life for Hashem than to give up one's life for Hashem. After death there is no more to be done and no more trials. To live after this ... – sabbahillel Jun 3 '14 at 12:43
The second part of your answer was written long ago by the Sefer Haikarim (3, 36). Abraham acted with a full level of Bechira. – Emilios1995 Jul 6 at 23:59

In a note to the Rada"l's commentary on the Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer (Chapter 31), the Rada"l addresses this issue.

He points out the Midrash that Rashi (Bereshit 22:1) quotes:

And some say,“ after the words of Ishmael,” who was boasting to Isaac that he was circumcised at the age of thirteen, and he did not protest. Isaac said to him,“ With one organ you intimidate me? If the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, ‘Sacrifice yourself before Me,’ I would not hold back.” - Cf. Gen. Rabbah 55:4.

G-d heard this and said, "Since Yitzchok had already agreed to sacrifice himself, this would be a good opportunity to test Avraham through Yitzchok."

This wasn't Yitzchok's test, since he had already verbally requested it (as it says in the Agadah Bereshit).

[I'm not quite sure which sefer the Agadah Bereshit is]

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Thanks for posting this answer. It and the other answers here are going to go very well in Days of Awe - Mi Yodeya?. – Isaac Moses Jul 20 at 4:48

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