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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rosh Hashannah Torah Reading, Akeidat Yitzchak, The "Sacrifice" sic of Isaac, Another Look

Last Shabbat I attended a women's class, שיעור נשים Shiur Nashim, led by Rachel Sella, a neighbor of mine.  Unfortunately I got there a bit late and missed the beginning.  They were discussing Akeidat Yitzchak, which is translated as  The "Sacrifice" sic of Isaac.  My mind went spinning, inspired.  The following thoughts are my own though Rachel sent me on this track, she didn't say what I'm now writing.

I personally don't like that translation. Isaac lived; he didn't die.  The story of the עקידה Akeida aka עקידת יצחק or  "Sacrifice" sic of Isaac, Bereishit, Genesis 22 is what is read on Rosh Hashanah.
ז  וַיֹּאמֶר יִצְחָק אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו, וַיֹּאמֶר אָבִי, וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֶּנִּי בְנִי; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה הָאֵשׁ וְהָעֵצִים, וְאַיֵּה הַשֶּׂה, לְעֹלָה. 7 And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said: 'My father.' And he said: 'Here am I, my son.' And he said: 'Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?'
ח  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹהִים יִרְאֶה-לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעֹלָה, בְּנִי; וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, יַחְדָּו. 8 And Abraham said: 'God will provide* Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together.
ט  וַיָּבֹאוּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר-לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים, וַיִּבֶן שָׁם אַבְרָהָם אֶת-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, וַיַּעֲרֹךְ אֶת-הָעֵצִים; וַיַּעֲקֹד, אֶת-יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ, וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתוֹ עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, מִמַּעַל לָעֵצִים. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
י  וַיִּשְׁלַח אַבְרָהָם אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת, לִשְׁחֹט, אֶת-בְּנוֹ. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
יא  וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה, מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּנִי. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said: 'Abraham, Abraham.' And he said: 'Here am I.'
יב  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַל-תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל-הַנַּעַר, וְאַל-תַּעַשׂ לוֹ, מְאוּמָה:  כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה, וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ, מִמֶּנִּי. 12 And he said: 'Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.'
יג  וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה-אַיִל, אַחַר, נֶאֱחַז בַּסְּבַךְ בְּקַרְנָיו; וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאַיִל, וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ לְעֹלָה תַּחַת בְּנוֹ. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.
יד  וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָהָם שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, יְהוָה יִרְאֶה, אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר הַיּוֹם, בְּהַר יְהוָה יֵרָאֶה. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-jireh; as it is said to this day: 'In the mount where the LORD is seen.'
It's no secret that Yitzchak (Isaac) wasn't sacrificed, killed and I also can't stand when people refer to him as a young boy when he was a grown man in his thirties.  Of course to Abraham, his younger son was a "lad;" I refer to my youngest child who is about to celebrate his thirtieth birthday as my "baby."  But Isaac was a grown man and he was the one G-d was testing.  He asked the crucial question, and Abraham gave him the answer we must learn to accept:
ח  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹהִים יִרְאֶה-לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעֹלָה, בְּנִי; וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, יַחְדָּו. 8 And Abraham said: 'God will provide* Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together.

*bad translation, יִרְאֶה means "to show," as in the Torah Portion לך לך
א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. 1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.
The entire  אַבְרָהָם Abraham story is about showing and seeing.  The Hebrew root of the word is ראה and those very same letters can be found in Abraham's name. 

This is the story of Isaac's acceptance of G-d and that G-d would show him how to lead and what to do.  Isaac bound himself to G-d taking on the dynastic responsibility.  I also saw this scene as parallel to when King David begged G-d to allow him to build a proper "house" for G-d.  G-d's reply was that He would do something even better for David.  David's son would build the house, the Beit Hamikdash, Holy Temple, and that would establish David's dynasty.

The Place, המקום HaMakom,  was the very same place, הר מורי'ה Har Moriah, today known as Har Habayit The Temple Mount.

Catriel Sugarman

Shannah Tovah U'Mutzlachat
May you Have a Good and Successful Year
And May We Be Speedily Redeemed and The Temple be Built

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