web analytics
August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Judaism » Torah »

The Art Of Gratitude


The key narratives of the Torah are there to teach us that G-d is the ultimate owner of all.

*  *  * In the ancient world, up to and including the Roman Empire, children were considered the legal property of their parents. They had no rights. They were not legal personalities in themselves. Under the Roman principle of patria potestas, a father could do whatever he wished with his child, including putting him to death. Infanticide was well known in antiquity. (It has even been defended in our time by the Harvard philosopher Peter Singer, in the case of severely handicapped children.) That, for example, is how the story of Oedipus begins, with his father Laius leaving him to die.

It is this principle that underlies the entire practice of child sacrifice, which was widespread throughout the pagan world. The Torah is horrified by child sacrifice, which it sees as the worst of all sins. It therefore seeks to establish, in the case of children, what it establishes in the case of the universe as a whole, the land of Israel, and the people of Israel. We do not own our children. G-d does. We are merely their guardians on G-d’s behalf.

Only the most dramatic event could establish an idea so revolutionary and unprecedented – even unintelligible – in the ancient world. That is what the story of the binding of Isaac is about. Isaac belongs to neither Abraham nor Sarah. Isaac belongs to G-d. All children belong to G-d. Parents do not own their children. The relationship of parent to child is one of guardianship only. G-d does not want Abraham to sacrifice his child. G-d wants him to renounce ownership of his child. That is what the angel means when it calls to Abraham, telling him to stop: “You have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.”

The binding of Isaac is a polemic against, and a rejection of, the principle of patria potestas, the idea universal to all pagan cultures that children are the property of their parents.

*  *  * Seen in this light, the binding of Isaac is now consistent with the other foundational narratives of the Torah, namely the creation of the universe and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The rest of the narrative also makes sense. G-d had to show Abraham and Sarah that their child was not naturally theirs, because his birth was not natural at all. It took place after Sarah could no longer conceive. The story of the first Jewish child establishes a principle that applies to all Jewish children. G-d creates legal space between parent and child, because only when that space exists do children have the room to grow as independent individuals.

The Torah ultimately seeks to abolish all relationships of dominance and submission. That is why it dislikes slavery and makes it, within Israel, a temporary condition rather than a permanent fate. That is why it seeks to protect children from parents who are overbearing or worse.

Abraham was chosen to be the role model for all time of what it is to be a parent. We now see that the binding of Isaac is the consummation of that story. A parent is one who knows he or she does not own their child.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth since 1991, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently The Koren Sacks Rosh HaShana Mahzor (Koren Publishers Jerusalem).

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
The three salesmen -Netanyahu, Ya'alon and Gantz
Netanyahu Tries to Sell Bill of Goods that Israel Won Goals in the War
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Sacks

Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

Parsha-Perspectives-logo

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

Who does not want to get close to Hashem? Yet, how do we do that?

Hashem recalls everything – nothing is hidden from His eyes.

According to Rabbi Yishmael one was not permitted to eat such an animal prior to entering Eretz Yisrael, while according to Rabbi Akiva one was permitted to eat animals if he would perform nechirah.

Discretion
‘Vendors Of Fruits And Clothing…May Sell In Private’
(Mo’ed Katan 13b)

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

If a man sins and follows his inclinations, he will find comfort in this world – but when he dies, he will go to a place that is all thorns.

Nothing is more effective to diminish envy than gratitude.

The first prayer of Moshe was Vayechal, where Moshe’s petition was that no matter how bad bnei Yisrael were, the Egyptians were worse.

“We’re leining now, and shouldn’t be talking,” Mr. Silver gently quieted his son. “At the Shabbos table we can discuss it at length.”

If we regard pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives

Culture is not nature. There are causes in nature, but only in culture are there meanings.

More Articles from Jewish Press Staff
Missing yeshiva student Aharon Sofer of Lakewood, NJ has been in Israel since last fall. He is no novice to the area, and would not have easily gotten lost.

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 […]

No one was injured but damage was widespread at the Napa Valley Chabad Jewish Center.

Chabad rabbis say middle-of-the-night jolt makes him understand better what Israelis are going through in the war.

Neither, rain, nor sleet, snow nor Hamas can keep Apple co-founder Wozniak from biting into Israel.

One advantage of erosion of stones at the Kotel is more cracks for people to place prayer notes.

Official Facebook page of Fatah, headed by Mahmoud “Peace Partner: Abbas, boasts about leading Palestinians in terror.

11:48pm Be’er Sheva 11:45 Rocket Alert Ashdod.. Ashkelon…Shafir… Kiryat..Malachi 11:44pm Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ashkelon 11:26pm Eshkol x2 10:55pm Eshkol 9:59pm Ashdod 8:12pm Sdot Negev, Shaar Negev 7:55pm Ashkelon Coast 7:47pm Rocket Alert Sha’ar HaNegev 7:11pm Ashkelon Coast 7:05pm Multiple Rocket Alerts Sdot Negev…Netivot 7:05pm Ashkelon, Kfar Maimon, Gaza border communities – all Multiples. 6:43pm Ashkelon […]

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: