Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
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).
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Will Your brothers go to war, while you sit (in peace) here? (Bamidbar 32:6)
Perhaps, just perhaps, we can relate to this: whenever we feel distant from Hashem, that is the Churban.
Our home is in the center of the Holy Land, surrounded by (what else?) green hills and valleys.
“Sound fine,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “In the middle, paint their names, Shoshana and Yehonasan. He spells his name Yehonasan with a hei and is very particular about it!”
The Investment Of Sanctity
Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?
We may not recognize the adverse affect of eating forbidden foods, but they leave an indelible imprint.
There are several rules that one must adhere to when making a neder.
Important message for Jews in the Diaspora: In times of need run to Israel rather than from Israel.
The negotiation between Moses and the tribes of Reuven and Gad is a model of conflict resolution.
Once again we find ourselves alone – a little lamb among wolves.
When we return to our routines, things don’t have to go back to exactly the way they were.
Missile fire may disrupt schedules in commercial flights at Ben Gurion International Airport, authority warns.
In praising the kidnapping, Hamas remains true to its anti-Semitic, genocidal founding charter.
Unfortunately, the French-born murderer of innocents at the Brussels Jewish Museum, are revered by many young Muslims.
Bnei Menashe children who made Aliyah with their families on May 26, celebrate their first Israeli Shavuot.
Nine-year-old Yossi was the only Jewish player in his Arizona little league. His refusal to give up tzitzit was a lesson in humility.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/the-art-of-gratitude/2011/11/12/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: