An interesting call came in this week. The caller asked me a question that he found very important but which others whom he had approached dismissed or did not efectively address.
It troubled him that in the story of the Akeida, Hashem called Avraham to sacrifice his son with the name Elokim but when He reversed Himself, it was through "the Angel of YKVK". This, in itself, is not the new complaint. Rashi attributes it to Bilaam. When Bilaam raised his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord he said that such is the way of Hashem. He commands people Himself and then reverses His orders through the use of an angel.
So I asked him for what he thought about it himself and during the discussion other possibilities came up.
The first one was that the Angel of YKVK is actually a higher level than the name Elokim because Elokim is the more distant Quality of Justice and YKVK is a closer Quality of Mercy.
The second one was that it is proper for one to take personal responsibility for delivering bad news. One does not fire people through an e-mail or a letter but is responsible to do so in person. It may be more uncomfortable to to bring good news than bad news and the natural inclination of people is to to bring good news in person and deliver bad news at a distance. However, this is not how God works (delivering the bad news directly as Elokim) and we need to learn Derech Eretz from that.
What I really think is, however is different.
We start with the Ramban ad loc who points out that Avraham was tested and a test(Nisayon) is for the benefit of the individual tested. In other words, it is not that God needs to learn that Avraham will do but that the act of testing benefits Avraham and brings out what is potential in him to become what is actual. Of course, this is an oversimplification. If you look at Netsiv and the midrash that he quotes you will find that there is more than one kind of Nisayon and that not all tests are beneficial and solely for the benefit of the tested individual.
However, assuming that in this case the benefit was for Avraham, the deeper truth of the Akeida is that the Encounter with the Divine is much more likely at the times of stress and suffering than when everything runs smoothly or at the time of blessing. Unfortunately, when Hashem subjects us to suffering we are put to the true test and have to choose between love and anger. Nisayon is what takes place within us. It is such times that force us to say with Iyov 13:15, "even He slays me, I trust in Him", or abandon Hashem. This is when our sense of the Divine is at its deepest and its truest.
Accordingly, it is when we perceive Hashem as Elokim, through tear clouded eyes and in pain and frustration that we encounter Him directly. On the other hand, when we receive a salvation or a blessing we only feel an "angel of the Lord", signifying a more distant connection, because at such a time a choice to remain connected and or to become distanced, is not required.
A similar thought was expressed by the Kotzker. On the verse, "All her pursuers reached her between the borders (Lam. 1:3)", he comments that "her pursuers" refers to those who passionately seek Hashem. Where will they find HIm? Between the borders! He can only be found at the time of trouble and pain referred to as "bein hameitsarim".