Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
It is the hardest passage of all, one that seems to defy understanding. Abraham and Sarah have waited years for a child. G-d has promised them repeatedly that they would have many descendants, as many as the stars of the sky, the dust of the earth, the grains of sand on the seashore. They wait. No child comes.
Sarah, in despair, suggests that Abraham should have a child by her handmaid Hagar. He does. Ishmael is born. Yet G-d tells Abraham that this is not the descendant He meant. By now Sarah is old, post-menopausal, unable by natural means to have a child. Angels come and again promise a child. Sarah laughs. But a year later Isaac is born. Sarah’s joy is almost heartbreaking.
Sarah said, “G-d has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age” (Genesis 21:6-7).
Then come the fateful words: “Then G-d said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ ” (Genesis 22:2).
The rest of the story is familiar. Abraham takes Isaac. Together they journey for three days to the mountain. Abraham builds an altar, gathers wood, binds his son and lifts the knife. At that moment:
The angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear G-d, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:11-12).
The trial is over. It is the climax of Abraham’s life, the supreme test of faith, a key moment in Jewish memory and self-definition.
But it is deeply troubling. Why did G-d so nearly take away what He had given? Why did He put these two aged parents – Abraham and Sarah – through so appalling a test? Why did Abraham, who had earlier challenged G-d on the fate of Sodom, saying, “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justly?” not protest against this cruel act against an innocent child?
The standard interpretation, given by all the classical and modern commentators, is that Abraham demonstrates his total love of G-d by being willing to sacrifice the most precious thing in his life, the son for whom he has been waiting for so many years.
The Christian theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote a powerful book about it, Fear and Trembling, in which he coined such ideas as the “teleological suspension of the ethical” – the love of G-d may lead us to do things that would otherwise be considered morally wrong – and “faith in the absurd” – Abraham trusted G-d to make the impossible possible. He believed he would lose Isaac but still keep him. For Kierkegaard, faith transcends reason.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik saw the binding as demonstrating that we must not expect always to be victorious. Sometimes we must experience defeat. “G-d tells man to withdraw from whatever man desires the most.”
All these interpretations are surely correct. They are part of our tradition. I want, however, to offer a quite different reading, for one reason. Throughout Tanach, the gravest sin is child sacrifice. The Torah and the prophets consistently regard it with horror. It is what pagans do.
This is Jeremiah on the subject: “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command or mention; nor did it enter my mind” (Jeremiah 19:5).
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Do you say Shema before you go to sleep? I’m sure you do.
But perhaps you, like many, feel too tired at night to say the entire tefillah of Kri’as Shema as it appears in the siddur. If you do say the entire tefillah, you will recognize a pasuk in this week’s Haftorah. And if you don’t say the whole Kri’as Shema al Hamitah, perhaps after this column, you’ll re-consider and find yourself connecting with the following very comforting pasuk.
The sand is rapidly running through the hourglass, as the centrifuges in the secret Iranian nuclear plants spin furiously. It is quite clear that the Iranians are on the brink of attaining nuclear capability, and we are well aware of the danger that would face Klal Yisroel in that event, chas v’sholom. All the sanctions, threats, and computer worm attacks do not seem to be stopping them, and it is terrifying. And when we see how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks anywhere in the world, we become even more terrified.
Miriam spoke disparagingly about Moshe Rabbeinu. Because of this, she contracted tzaras, and for seven days she was sent outside the camp of Israel.
Detached Or Unrelated
‘He Made An Asheirah Tree Into a Ladder…’
In this week’s parshah we read about the individuals who were tamei and thus could not bring the korban Pesach. They approached Moshe Rabbeinu and asked him whether there was anything they could do to bring the korban. Ultimately, Hashem told Moshe that they should bring a korban a month after Pesach, on the 14th of Iyar.
Question: As Shavuot is fast approaching – a holiday on which we dwell on the story of Ruth and the origins of the royal house of David – I was wondering if you could help me resolve something. Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah because the Hasmoneans improperly crowned themselves and ignored the rule that all Jewish kings are supposed to come from the tribe of Yehudah. Is this true?
One of the thirty-nine prohibited melachot on Shabbat is carrying an object from a private domain, reshut hayachid, to a public domain, reshut harabim, or carrying an object a distance of four amot, six to eight feet, in a reshut harabim. The Torah does permit, however, carrying within the reshut hayachid itself. The definition of a reshut hayachid and a reshut harabim is crucial, therefore, to the laws of carrying on Shabbat.
Question: The Midrash notes that the song the Jews sang after they crossed the Red Sea (“Az Yashir”) was unique; its likes had never been heard before in the world. Our Sages even refer to it as a shirah chadashah, a “new song.” What made “Az Yashir” so unique and in what sense was it a “new song”?
The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.
Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is remarkable for the extreme realism with which it portrays human character. Its heroes are not superhuman. Its non-heroes are not archetypal villains. The best have failings; the worst often have saving virtues. I know of no other religious literature quite like it.
Last week I shared a letter from a newly observant Jewish woman. She and her husband reside in a small suburban community outside of Los Angeles. Last year they came to consult with me on a personal religious issue. While they were both ba’alei teshuvah, there was one fine difference between them. He had become a ba’al teshuvah earlier than she and was therefore somewhat more settled in an observant lifestyle.
I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of when one steals from another and when confronted in beis din, the thief swears falsely with his denial that he stole. This parshah was already taught in parshas Vayikra; however, there are two halachos that the Torah adds in this parshah to this topic.
In order to carry from one’s home into the street (even when the area is enclosed by a properly constructed eruv), the eruvin ceremony must be performed. This ceremony involves the placing of food in one designated home on behalf of all Sabbath observers in the enclosed area. In order for the eruvin ceremony to be valid, however, it must be performed on behalf of all owners of streets and homes in the enclosed area.
The heinous crime that put “Prisoner X” Ben Zygier in an Israel jail where he killed himself was not known until today: He butchered a secret Mossad operation to bring home the remains of 3 soldiers.
Last week, police executed a search warrant in the couple’s former home in Dewitt.
“They located the barbecue in a grassy area, ignoring safety guidelines.”
The organizers of a Thursday parade in Rome marking the World War II liberation of Italy prevented a representative from the Jewish Brigade group from speaking at the commemorative ceremony. A group of Jews and others marched under the Israeli flag and a banner of the Jewish Brigade that fought the Nazis in Italy. The [...]
Rabbi Avraham Sherman could be charged with fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office.
Second suspect sought after Watertown explosions, gunfire.
Peter Vallone Jr., the frontrunner in the Queens Borough President’s race this fall, met last week with the editorial board of The Jewish Press at the newspaper’s Boro Park office. Vallone, a city councilman representing Astoria, Queens, touted his strong backgrounds in both public safety and running a small business, as well as his being a longtime supporter of Israel and of more funding and benefits for private schools.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/the-art-of-gratitude/2011/11/12/
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