web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Judaism » Torah »

The Art Of Gratitude


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.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Art Of Gratitude”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israel's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations David Roet, at a UNSC meeting held July 22, 2014 regarding the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel Attempts to Insert Reason into UN Debate About Middle East
Latest Judaism Stories
Noah and his Family; mixed media collage by Nathan Hilu. Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

God-and the world

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Lessons-in-Emunah-new

To the surprise of our protectzia-invested acquaintances, my family has thrived in our daled amos without that amenity, b’ezras Hashem.

Shimon started adjusting the branches on the roof. In doing so, a branch fell off the other side of the car and hit the side-view mirror, cracking it.

I, the one who is housed inside this body, am completely and utterly spiritual.

Should we sit in the sukkah on a day that may be the eighth day when we are not commanded to sit in the sukkah at all?

For Appearance’s Sake
‘Shammai Did Not Follow Their Own Ruling’
(Yevamos 13b 14a)

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

I’m grateful to Hashem for everything; Just the same, I’d love a joyous Yom Tov without aggravation.

Bereshit: Life includes hard choices that challenge our decisions, leaving lingering complications.

Rabbi Fohrman:” Great evils are often wrought by those who are blithely unaware of the power they wield.”

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

The Torah emphasizes the joy of Sukkot, for after a season of labor, we celebrate our prosperity.

The encounter with the timeless stability of the divine occurs within the Sukkot.

More Articles from Jewish Press Staff
RCA Logo

The Rabbinical Council of America said that since the arrest last week of Rabbi Barry Freundel of Washington, DC, it has been working assiduously to address the many challenges that its members and their communities now face.

Rare silver coin from period of Bar Kochba showing some of the  four species.

The exhibition includes the largest gold medallion with Judaic symbols known in existence.

The soft-glove approach to campus anti-Zionists is more like a pat on the back.

PM Netanyahu has sent out his Rosh HaShana greeting to Jews around the world.

Turkey is not going to be signing any deals for Israeli natural gas exports any time soon, says Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

Netanyahu said that since the Jordanians opposed the bridge, “Of course we agreed.” Of course.

The Israeli navy is about to receive its fourth submarine and the first of three nuclear-capable subs purchased from Germany.

Israeli searchers for missing Lakewood, New Jersey yeshiva student Aaron Sofer have found some of his personal belongs near a trail, his last known location, but fears are growing that the 23-year-old youth has been kidnapped and/or murdered. Police and a dog unit have tracked the Jerusalem Forest area where he was last seen on […]

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/the-art-of-gratitude/2011/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: