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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Isaac’

The Isaac Covenant – Part II – A time for Renewed Jewish Pride

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

{Originally posted to the rabbi’s website,  Libi BaMizrach}

In a previous essay, I introduced the notion that, of the three Avos (Patriarchs), Yitzchak (Isaac) was the Av whose life story mirrored our time more than his holy father or son.  Central to that analysis was the deeply insightful explication by Rav Samson R Hirsch of the verse “Then will I remember .My covenant with Yaakov; I will remember also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land.” (Vayikra 26:42).

He argued that each of the Avos represented a different era of Jewish history, not only in the past, but in the stages of the future redemption.  In particular, there was a difference between the Jacob era – where he was buffeted by troubles, hated, attacked, and persecuted – and the era of Isaac, who was not loved by his neighbors but tolerated, who was successful financially not by engaging in subterfuge (as Jacob had to in order to counter the mischievous thievery of Lavan and murderous intent of Eisav), but rather by acting forthrightly and receiving the blessing of Hashem, much to the consternation of his neighbors and competitors.  He earned their grudging respect and admiration, and he lived as an equal among them.

In the context of the verse in Bechukosai which discusses the end of the Exile, i.e. our national future, Rav Hirsch predicts that the time of the Isaac Covenant will come when “they will suffer the envy of the nations. . . In the midst of growing prosperity, living among nations wavering between humaneness and envy, they will have to preserve their unique character as did Isaac.  They will have to employ their resources, ampler and less restricted than before, for a more perfect and multifaceted fulfillment of their unique mission in the Golus. . .”

Rav Hirsch hoped that in the post-emancipation bourgeois openness of Western Europe of the nineteenth century, the time had come that “Now we are facing the test of the second stage Isaac Covenant; to walk, free and independent among the nations, not to fear to be different, and to remain undeterred by envy. . . a test we still have to pass.”  Clearly, with the hindsight of looking at what emanated from twentieth century Germany, the Rav’s hope was tragically premature.

It speaks to the essence of how the Jewish people should see themselves internally . . . The paradigm has changed . . .  We are no longer in the era of the Jacob Covenant; we are now living the Isaac Covenant

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that with the success, power, influence and stature of the Jewish people the world over, and – most tellingly – with the incredible gift of Hashem that is the State of Israel (notwithstanding all of its flaws . . . more about that later), we have truly entered into a new level of interaction with and relationship to the world around us – an era that I am sure Rav Hirsch would identify as “The Isaac Covenant.” [1] This idea, I deeply believe, is far more than an interesting commentary on Chumash or side-note to history.  It speaks, or ought to speak, to the essence of how the Jewish people should see themselves internally and vis a vis the rest of the world: we are living in a new era.   The paradigm has changed.  We need to see ourselves and the world around us differently than our predecessors in Eurasia and North Africa.   We are no longer in the era of the Jacob Covenant; we are now living the Isaac Covenant.

As this way of thinking affects literally everything, there are infinite examples of where this should be applied. I will limit myself in this essay to only two.

First – in Parashat HaShavua.   Vayishlach begins with the encounter between Jacob and Esau upon his return, for which Jacob prepared assiduously in three ways, with prayer, appeasement, and if necessary, for war.  A famous Midrash Rabba states that when Rabbi Judah the Prince would go to the foreign government (Rome), he would first review Parashat Vayishlach, to gain insight as to how to deal with our enemies.  We read of the incredibly large gift that he prepared for Esau, and of the incredible obeisance that he showed by prostrating himself before Esau many times while calling himself the servant of Esau the master.  This all had the desired effect; Esau was overwhelmed by Jacob’s subservience, and almost like an animal who will refrain from attacking another animal that lies prostrate and helpless before it, Esau magnanimously offered friendship and brotherhood to Jacob, who politely declined the offer, avoiding confrontation until the distant future.

While this was apparently[2] the correct course of action for Jacob to take at that place and time, I admit to feeling uneasy when reading it.  I believe this is because it was a prime example of the Jacob Covenant.   In such times, one avoided confrontation with the Gentile at almost all costs, and sought to appease and show subservience.   It was a time of Golus, a time when we were in disfavor, and had to see our place as accepting the low national status, and subservience that went with it.  It was a Jacob time, and I, as a child of the Isaac covenant, find it hard to relate to. It pains me to think of Jacob groveling before that scoundrel even given whatever legitimate complaints Esau might have had against him.  But I know that Jews from previous generations, for whom a subservient attitude to the Poritz (Feudal Landlord), Czar, priest, Cossack, or whoever else we had the misfortune of living with, would relate to this far more naturally.

I enjoy singing zemiros on Shabbos.  In the older zemiros books there is a long zemer which begins “Ma Yofis.”  With the exception of the barely singable chant that my father z”l knew from Frankfurt, I have never heard of any nigun for this lengthy zemer, although it contains many beautiful and interesting lyrics. I have always wondered why “no one sings that”, (other than the cynical “it’s too long” . . .)

And then, in my reading, I encountered the term, a “Ma Yofis Jew.   According to the Dictionary of Jewish Usage [3] a mayofisnik is a Yiddish term “used pejoratively to describe a Jew lacking in dignity or pride, especially one who is given to servile flattery of gentiles . . . According to legend, the Sabbath song Ma Yofis was sung with a special melody [4] by Polish Jews, and the nobles they worked for often requested that the Jews sing ma yofis for their entertainment; hence ‘to sing ma yofis’ to a gentile came to mean to serve him obsequiously or slavishly.” At long last the light went on for me. Perhaps Jews no longer wanted to be Ma Yofis Jews . . . the feelings and associations with that beautiful nigun belonged to the past. An Isaac Covenant Jew is a mayofisnik no longer; he recoils at the thought of being a servile flatterer of the gentile overlord.

Some of our leaders begin with the notion that, “Remember, we are in Golus. We have to be subservient. Better not to engage in any confrontational behavior. . . we have to remember our place.” Others, however, recognize that we live in a time that . . . not only is there nothing wrong with advocating for our needs and issues from a place of strength and self-respect, it is incumbent upon us to do so!

This, of course, has major implications for the way we relate to the non-Jewish authorities and governments of the world.
Some of our leaders seem to begin with the notion that, “Remember, we are in Golus. We have to be subservient. Better not to engage in any confrontational behavior, no matter how right our cause, because we have to remember our place.”  Others, however, recognize that we live in a time that we have been given unprecedented power, wealth, influence and stature in society, and not only is there nothing wrong with advocating for our needs and issues from a place of strength and self-respect, it is incumbent upon us to do so! [5] The advocacy that some of our national organizations, notably the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel, have undertaken in furthering our community’s interests have this mindset when they are at their best.  They argue effectively and forcefully, while at the same time politely and non-confrontationally for our rights and privileges, and more power to them.   I only wish that they would be able to articulate their work in a manner fully consistent with the Isaac Covenant time we live in, which would be so helpful in influencing the community conversation on so many issues and moving from a focus on smaller concerns to the broader Isaac Covenant, pre-Messianic times that we have the exciting privilege of living in.

Another example of how this way of thinking should inform us is in regard to a topic I have written extensively about before, namely our attitude to the Har Habayit (Temple Mount). Briefly, I argued that while there is a legitimate Halachic dispute about the propriety, for now, of visiting certain sections of the Har Habayit in our state of Tum’ah, there should be no dispute about our national right and need to strongly assert that it is OUR national shrine, and WE own that holy place, and not the contemptuous Islamic Waqf.  It is literally up to us to actualize Gen. Motta Gur’s prophetic words “Har Habayit Biyadeinu” – The Temple Mount is in our hands – it is in our hands to either assert our rights, as Isaac Covenant Jews, or to say that since Mashiach has not come yet, we have no rights there at all.

There are many more examples of applying the Isaac way of thinking …relating…   There is much that I still hope to address, including our relationship to Medinat Yisrael, how we await the coming of the Mashiach, how we negotiate the tension between insularity and openness to the world around us, and much more.

I will end with a thought that struck me while thinking about this. An amazing passage in the Zohar[6] predicts that at the End of Time before the Mashiach, the descendants of Ishmael will try to prevent Yisrael from returning to their homeland, and cause wars and hostilities the world over until the descendants of Eisav will begin to fight them, leading to the War of Gog uMagog (Armageddon).  It has become clearer and clearer, as history develops, that our main battle today is no longer the one between Jacob and Esau, but rather the one between Isaac and Ishmael.   It is during this time, perhaps, that we need the zechus, or merit of our Father Isaac, to protect us even more than the other Avos, (as mentioned in the previous essay).  We need to live in this consciousness, to leave the Ma Yofis attitudes to the past, and to embrace the thrill of the exciting time in which we get to live – the time of the Isaac Covenant.

[1] The antagonistic attitude of Rav Hirsch to Zionism while living in the mid nineteenth century is interesting, but mostly irrelevant to a very changed world today.  Fuller discussion of that topic awaits a later essay.

 

[2] This is far from settled.  There are major disputes in the Midrash and among the Rishonim between those who view these actions of Jacob positively and those who criticize him severely, going so far as to say that this was the cause of many later problems with Rome.  Cf. Bereishis Rabba 75, Ramban 32:4.

[3] Steinmetz, Sol Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, Rowman & Littlefield 2005, pp106-107.,

[4] Interestingly, when researching this essay i came across an old instrumental recording entitled Ma Yofis.  I know this tune well; but in our family we would sing it to Libi UveSari.
[5] One of the greatest influences on this way of thinking in our time, IMHO, was Rav Meir Kahane, HY”D.  While he was a controversial figure partially due to some of his pronouncements and mostly to the way he was unfairly criticized and maligned in the press, his basic message – which I believe is crucially important – was that we ought to have self-respect and Jewish Pride, doing what we need to protect our own interests, unafraid of “what will the Goyim say.”  His much-misunderstood slogan of “Never Again” was a call to never repeat the impotent, meek, abashed response of the American Jewish community during the Holocaust, who should have instead taken to the streets and badgered their elected officials demanding that the US government bomb the tracks to Auschwitz, etc.   He was a Jew who lived every day in the spirit of the Isaac covenant, and had no patience any longer for the Jacob covenant.

[6] Va’era 32a
 

Rabbi Lenny Oppenheimer

When Ishmael Finally Repents

Friday, November 25th, 2016

“And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of the Machpela… (Breishit 25:9)

Rashi comments that we see from this Pasuk that Ishmael repented, as he yielded the precedence to Yaakov.

What was the sin of Ishmael that was rectified and required repentence?

There were 2 groups who denied the lineage of Isaac.

Last week, Rashi spoke of those skeptics who claimed that Avraham and Sara could not possibly be Isaac’s parents, rather they found a baby on their doorstep. A lie, but plausible.

Next week Rashi opens with the illogical claim of the cynics of the generation, the “letzanei hador”: Isaac was Sara’s child, but the father was Avimelech. This contention is absurd, as Avraham fathered Ishmael. It was Sara who was barren.

The Sforno teaches that when the Torah tells us that Ishmael was “metzachek”, it was that he spread the lies of the “letzanei hador” and poked fun of the great feast that Avraham and Sara threw in honor of Yitzchak’s weaning.

The Meshech Chochma points out that the public recognition and acknowledgement by Ishmael, of Isaac as the primary son of Avraham and Sara, corrected the travesty that he promulgated some 70+ years previously.

Today we are confronted by anti Semitism. Some manifestations, while vile, are theoretically plausible. Often they are absurd lies that are so remote from any actual possibility.

One day the perpetrators will repent and denounce their wicked ways and lies. It may be sooner than we think.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rav Yitzchak Korn

Wikileaks: Netanyahu Planned to Transfer Area C Land to PA for Herzog Coalition

Monday, November 14th, 2016

A July 22, 2015 Wikileaked email from Stuart E. Eizenstat, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and one of Israel’s permanent friends in Washington DC, to Jake Sullivan, Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to VP Biden (CC’ed to John Podesta and Huma Abedin), reveals that, according to Dan Kurtzer, who served as US ambassador to Egypt and to Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu was offering the “transfer of more territory from Zone C (about 55 percent of the West Bank) under Israel’s sole control to Zone A, controlled by the Palestinians” in return for the Labor party joining his coalition government.

According to Kurtzer, speaking to Eizenstat, “Bibi wants badly to broaden his coalition by including Boogie (sic) Herzog and his Labor seats.” At this point, Eizenstat noted: “[Ambassador] Dennis Ross … also told me this week the government would not last beyond the end of the year and that Bibi wants to include Herzog and his Labor Party.”

However, Kurtzer told Eizenstat, “Herzog will not come in without clear commitments on the peace process.” And so, according to Kurtzer, Netanyahu is prepared to go a long way in making concessions to both the Palestinian Authority and to the Hamas government in Gaza. These concessions would include:

“Allowing Gaza reconstruction.” One is free to read whatever one wishes into this statement, which is accompanied by the cautionary note that “Israel is concerned pressures are building because of lack of economic opportunity.” One of the things it could mean is Israel softening control over the border crossings and risking letting through construction material such as cement and metal rods which could be diverted to building terror tunnels.

“An economic plan” for both Gaza and the PA, which Kurtzer suggested would introduce Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ), which are special free industrial parks being used by both Egypt and Jordan.

And the third sacrifice Netanyahu was willing to make in the summer of 2015, according to Kurtzer: “Transfer of more territory from Zone C (about 55 percent of the West Bank) under Israel’s sole control to Zone A, controlled by the Palestinians, creating more space for development,” and “More freedom of movement and fewer checkpoints.”

[To clarify a point for our readers, the email is saying that Area C makes up about 55% of the “West Bank”, not that Netanyahu was planning to transfer away 55% of the “West Bank”.]

Naturally, according to the Eizenstat email, making life in Judea and Samaria easier for the Arabs would entail making life harder for Jews, as Netanyahu was offering to “build new homes only in tightly defined current settlement blocs.”

In June 2016, Netanyahu was using his lengthy negotiations with Labor head Isaac “Buji” Herzog to lure Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman into his coalition government.

Were the shocking promises Netanyahu was giving Herzog in 2015, to give up Israeli security assets in exchange for a stable coalition, similarly unserious? Was Bibi fooling the Americans and Herzog just to force Liberman back into his government? Or can it be safely assumed that when the time comes for Netanyahu to choose between remaining in power and maintaining those Israeli assets — he’ll choose Bibi?

David Israel

PM Netanyahu Extends Eid al-Adha Greetings to Muslim, Druze Faithful

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended holiday greetings on Sunday to Israel’s Muslim and Druze citizens, in advance of the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha.

“On the occasion of the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, I am happy to extend holiday greetings to our Muslim and Druze citizens — Kol a’am wa antom bekhair,” he said. “On the holiday we cherish values that the Jewish faith also sanctifies: Fear of Heaven, family and helping one’s fellow.

“This is an additional example of the many things that unite us in our lives together in the State of Israel.”

The festival marks the willingness of Ishmael, the firstborn son of the Biblical patriarch Abraham – known to Muslims as Ibrahim – to be sacrificed to Allah, who appeared to his father in a dream and commanded him to sacrifice his son.

To this very day, Muslims set aside the finest lamb in the flock from birth, raising it to adulthood for the purpose of sacrifice for the feast of Eid al-Adha. Those who have no flock are enjoined to purchase a sheep or if money is scarce, then at least, a fine kid or goat for the ceremonial slaughter.

Up to one million sheep and goats have been held in three quarantine stations outside the ancient Red Sea port town of Berbera, in Somaliland, having been shipped from markets around the Horn of Africa over the past several weeks across the Gulf of Aden to Saudi Arabia.

They are all destined for ceremonial slaughter during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, and the Eid al-Adha celebrations to be held there on September 12.

The holiday marks an event referred to by the Jewish faith as the “Akeida” but which is precisely the mirror opposite in its details: Jews are taught that the younger son, Isaac, went with his father that day, and it was his life that was later spared when God’s Messenger Angel stayed Abraham’s hand as he raised it with the knife.

Hana Levi Julian

If You See Muslims Celebrating this 9/11, It’s to Commemorate Abraham’s Sacrifice of… Ishmael

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The quirky lunar calendar, which Jewish tradition mixes with solar calendar adjustments, but Islam just lets run wild, is a cause of special concern for Muslims this year, especially Muslims living in America. The most maligned religious group in recent US history, American Muslims are terrified that their heavily armed neighbors might take the wrong way the fact that celebrations of Eid al-Adha — Festival of the Sacrifice, could fall on September 11 this year, on the “date which will live in infamy,” replacing in most Americans’ consciousness December 7, 1941, the original date that will live in infamy, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Alas, it is quite possible that the 15th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York’s Trade Towers and on the Pentagon will feature festive Muslims, please keep your guns holstered.

As Jews we have our own issues with Eid al-Adha, which is a deceptive attempt to replace the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, which follows the story of the expulsion of the maidservant Hagar and her son Ishmael to the desert, with a revision which places Ishmael, father of the Arabs, on that altar on the Temple Mount. A culture with little regard for historic truth, or truth altogether, Islam simply fixed all those inconvenient stories in the Torah with its own “improved” version.

So that this year, Muslims will be celebrating on September 11 — and 12, depending on local lunar sightings, two lies: the first one ancient, about how Abraham actually designated his son Ishmael to be the chosen one; the other new, that the attacks on 9/11 were an aberration of Islamic tradition, and certainly had nothing to do with the xenophobic Saudi school of Wahhabism, even though most of those men on the four hijacked planes 15 years ago were Saudis.

According to the original version of the story (delivered circa 1248 BCE) God commands Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham binds Isaac on an altar, raises his machete, and the angel of God stops him at the last minute, saying “Now I know you fear God,” at which point Abraham sees a ram caught in some bushes and sacrifices it. The Torah relates that the binding took place at “The Place,” which Abraham then names “God will Watch,” which later books of the Jewish Bible identify as the hill upon which Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.

Islam, which, unlike Christianity, does not recognize the sanctity of the Jewish Bible and the five books of Moses, attempts to revise two historical problems, in a medieval world that was well versed in Jewish and Christian scripture: the story of Sara commanding Abraham to expel her maidservant Hagar and her boy Ishmael to the desert, and God compelling Abraham to obey her; and the story of Isaac’s binding, Abraham’s and Isaac’s ultimate sacrifice which seals the Jewish nations’ second covenant with God.

Here’s how Islamic tradition worked its magic:

God instructed Abraham to bring Hagar, his Arab wife, and Ishmael to Arabia from the land of Canaan. As Abraham was preparing for his journey back to Canaan, Hagar asked him, “Did God order you to leave us here, or are you leaving us here to die?” Abraham nodded, afraid that he would be too sad and that he would disobey God. Hagar said, “Then God will not waste us; you can go.” Although Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hagar and Ishmael (in the Torah version they only get one bottle of water), the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.

Hagar ran up and down between two hills, al-Safa and Al-Marwah, seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael (the Torah says he was a grown man, and already plotting to murder—or sodomize—Isaac) and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of “baby Ishmael.” Other accounts have the angel Gabriel striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this water supply, known as the Zamzam Well (lifted directly from Biblical Miriam), they traded water with passing nomads for food and supplies.

That took care of the embarrassing story about Abraham’s Arab son being kicked out to the desert.

Next comes Abraham’s command from God to sacrifice his dearest possession, his son. The son is not named in the Quran, but most modern Muslims believe it to be “Ismail.” Upon hearing God’s command, Abraham prepared to submit to the will of God. During this preparation, Satan tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him (a typical Quranic plagiarism of a Jewish medrash). In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars during the Stoning of the Devil at the Hajj rites.

When Abraham attempted to cut his son’s throat, he was astonished to see that his son was unharmed and instead he found a dead ram which was already slaughtered. The Torah story of the binding is retold almost intact by the Quran, except for the later name switch, from Isaac to Ishmael.

And so, while the Muslims celebrate this 9/11 (the prudent ones will probably push it off to the 12th, why look for trouble), and while most Americans recall with pain the first foreign attack on mainland USA since 1812, Jews will mourn both the losses of 9/11 and the bastardizing of our sacred tradition by semi-literate nomads with no respect for the truth.

JNi.Media

Conversion Conversation

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by David Isaac Simpkins, a convert and former US soldier. Meet David Issac Simpkins, who spent ten years in the US military, including fighting in Afghanistan, and four years becoming an officer in West Point where he became interested in Judaism and subsequently converted. Hear Simpkins along with Rabbi Kenny Cohen, the founding rabbi of the Young Israel Century City, Los Angeles ( who helped Simpkins convert) tell Yishai about David’s remarkable journey.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/beginning-the-journey/2013/10/24/

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