Passing Life's Tests

Passing Life's Tests Spiritual Reflections on the Trial of Abraham, the Binding of Isaac

Challenges you to go beneath the brief, shocking story and ask: who is the tester, who is the tested and what motivates the test? ... more

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Challenges you to go beneath the brief, shocking story and ask: who is the tester, who is the tested and what motivates the test?

Among stories so terrible they rend our hearts, so profound they touch the depths of our souls and so exalted they reach to heaven, none is more poignant than the Bible story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son, Isaac. A story revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and turned over and over by great secular thinkers searching for meaning, this gripping tale shocks us into complete attention, then takes us—in nineteen short verses—on a roller coaster ride of emotion, challenge and hope.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, known widely for making the Hebrew Bible relevant to our lives, draws on generations of Jewish sages, philosophers and scholars to explore this ancient story, known as the binding of Isaac or the test of Abraham. He invites us to use this powerful tale as a tool for our own soul wrestling, to transcend its words to confront our own existential sacrifices and our ability to face—and surmount—life's tests. By applying this tale’s lessons to everyday events, Artson compels us to pay closer attention to our lives and, through our priorities, responsibilities, mindfulness and faith, ask ourselves if we are passing our own tests.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, DHL, ( an inspiring speaker and educator, holds the Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean's Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and is vice...more


Rabbi Artson takes Abraham's test and through personal testimony and deep learning, teaches all of us crucial lessons about faith, learning and love.

Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles; author, Why Faith Matters

A book that belongs in every Jewish home. A treasure for all who long to make sense of the Torah's most perplexing narrative. [It] masterfully offers us the tools we need to confront our deepest questions of faith with new eyes and a new understanding. This is a work we will return to over and over again, and with each reading we will emerge transformed.

Rabbi Naomi Levy, author, Hope Will Find You; spiritual leader, Nashuva: The Jewish Spiritual Outreach Center

Draws poignantly and pointedly upon Rabbi Artson's own life story as well as upon his vast Jewish and secular knowledge to illuminate and provide original explanations of a text that has been read and debated for millennia. In so doing, he offers the contemporary reader new insights into a controversial and ancient story, and ignites a passion for the wisdom inherent in Torah with his readers. This is an enriching book!

Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

Rabbi Artson has taken on the most challenging story in the Bible, the binding of Isaac, and has found valuable lessons for all of us in it.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Wouldn’t it be great to have a rabbi learned in Jewish texts who also has a sophisticated grasp of cutting-edge contemporary theology? While we are imagining, we might as well give this rabbi an uncanny ability to explain complex ideas in simple ways. And would it be too much to ask for the rabbi to also have a soul—a profound understanding of human beings and a hard-won personal faith? As you read this book, you will marvel at Rabbi Artson’s unique combination of gifts. More importantly, Rabbi Artson will accompany you—like a good rabbi should—while you consider the challenging questions arising from Abraham’s story, and your own.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, PhD, associate professor of religious studies; director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Invites us to travel the heights and depths of this gripping biblical narrative as a mirror of our own soul’s quest. Aided by Rabbi Artson’s illuminating translation, multi-layered commentary, and opportunities for deeply personal contemplation, we encounter not only Abraham and Isaac within the story, but our own selves. If you face life-tests that challenge you, use this wisdom well! You will grow in faith, courage and insight!

Rabbi Marcia Prager, director and dean, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Ordination Program; author, The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine

Offers a fresh reading of the text, exhibiting the generosity of spirit and the daring imagination that has always marked the best of Rabbinic Judaism. Artson shows how the text provides an epitome of all that matters to Jewish faith. This is an important read for Christians, both to see a skilled rabbi working with the text and to read of the rich gift that this daringly Jewish text offers to faith. His reading of the text exhibits the deep theological and demanding moral dimensions of Torah faith that goes way beneath conventional religion. In Artson’s hands the text arrives at freshness. So will the reader!

Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary; author, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination

Through the lens of the Bible’s most troubling tale, Rabbi Brad Artson weaves meditations on life’s most profound challenges. Life and Bible become intertwined to enrich and enliven one another.

Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, president, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College