Saturday, November 19, 2016

The "Sacrifice" of Issac to Serve Gd and The Jewish People

credit העקדה באיור איסלאמי בשיראז
I really don't like the English title/translation of the Torah story we read this Shabbat, The "Sacrifice" of Issac. The Hebrew עקידת יצחק Akeidat Yitzchak doesn't really mean "sacrifice," like "killing." Remember that as the story ends, Issac does not die. A ram was slaughtered/sacrificed and when Issac next appears in the Biblical narrative, he gets married and has twin sons.

And also, unlike in this old illustration and the way many people read/understand the story, Issac was not a child; he was a man in his late thirties. He could easily have gotten out of his very elderly father's grip and escaped.

Issac was willingly bound to his responsibilities and role he inherited from his father Abraham. This father-son bonding trip to the "place Gd showed" Abraham was Issac's final test. It's also a continuation of the לך לך Lech Lecha Go, you go order Gd had given Abraham when He said to go to the "Land I  will show you."

Genesis Chapter 22
And He said, "Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you."
בוַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֨בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶ֨ךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּֽרִיָּ֑ה וְהַֽעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה עַ֚ל אַחַ֣ד הֶֽהָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ:
Yes, again לך לך, not the most common command in the Bible. And when Issac asked his father what would be sacrificed, Abraham answered "ח "וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֱלֹהִ֞ים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ  8- "Gd will show..." using another of the key words from  לך לך Lech Lecha Go, you go, Genesis Chapter 12.

And as this potentially frightening story of how Issac and Abraham are tested ends with a happy ending, the letters ר א appear a number of times in verses 14-16:
2And he said, "Do not stretch forth your hand to the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are a God fearing man, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me."
יבוַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י | עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי:
13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and he saw, and lo! there was a ram, [and] after [that] it was caught in a tree by its horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
יגוַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ וְהִנֵּה־אַ֔יִל אַחַ֕ר נֶֽאֱחַ֥ז בַּסְּבַ֖ךְ בְּקַרְנָ֑יו וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אַבְרָהָם֙ וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־הָאַ֔יִל וַיַּֽעֲלֵ֥הוּ לְעֹלָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת בְּנֽוֹ:
14And Abraham named that place, The Lord will see, as it is said to this day: On the mountain, the Lord will be seen.
ידוַיִּקְרָ֧א אַבְרָהָ֛ם שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא יְהֹוָ֣ה | יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵֽאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה יֵֽרָאֶֽה:
Each year as I learn this Torah Portion anew, I become more and more convinced that Issac is being tested more than his father, Abraham. Abraham and Gd have been partners for years, and now it's time for Issac to be initiated into that small select group.

As terrified as Abraham was at losing his precious son, he knew that just as he answered Issac, Gd would show them what to sacrifice in the nick of time, just as it happened. Lihavdil, yes, differently, it reminds me of how I feel sometimes when I'm waiting for a ride/tremp/bus. Time is passing, I'm tired, late, cold, hungry-whatever, and I have no idea how long and who will rescue me, but all along I say to myself:
"It will be fine."
"I will get a ride."
"I don't know when, but it will all work out."
And yes, it does. At no point do we see any sign that Issac is trying to escape. He shows complete and utter faith that his father is doing the right thing, because his father is doing what Gd had commanded. A couple of hundred years later, Nachshon jumps into the sea, which causes it to part into a dry pathway for the Jewish People to escape from Egypt. He, too, had the faith of Issac, because if Issac had fought Abraham and escaped, Abraham would have needed a new son to take over. And if Nachshon hadn't jumped into the water the Jewish People would have been slaughtered by the Egyptians.

 עקידת יצחק Akeidat Yitzchak is the Binding of Issac to Gd and his role as inheritor of Abraham's responsibilities.

There are times when we must do what appears dangerous or illogical to some, but they are the right things to do. When my husband and I got on that boat to Israel, barely two months after our wedding in 1970, no doubt there were many who thought us foolish. But I never had a second's doubt that it was the right thing to do. And here we are forty-six years later, and I can't imagine living any place else.

Shavua Tov
Have a Wonderful Week


John S said...

Dear Batya,

Thank you for your very insightful comments on Isaac. As you correctly observe he was not a young child as is so often depicted, but a grown man who could have easily resisted his father's will had he so desired.

One can only assume that Isaac shared the same faith as his father Abraham who had said to his servants, " “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, AND WE WILL COME BACK TO YOU.” It seems that in this moment of testing both father and son possessed an incredible vision and trust in Jehovahjireh.

So much of God's plan for His people depended on Abraham and Isaac getting it right. As you have rightly pointed out they got it right by simply believing and trusting in God.

Does this incredible story point to a future event where a loving Father actually does sacrifice His beloved Son?

As a Christian I believe so.

Batya said...

Thanks for the compliments, but as I think you know there is a very crucial difference in our religions. For Jews if there is any "sacrifice" it is the personal life, because we serve Gd or we, like Jonathan, who gave his inherited kingship to David, we know our limits.
Man is to serve Gd, but man can never be a god.

Anonymous said...

Also, interesting to note is that Yitzchak Avinu was identical in looks to Avraham Avinu. H' did that so that everyone would believe for sure that Yitzchak was Avraham's son. Many wanted to bad-mouth Avraham, because they thought he was too old to father a son at 100 years old.

Batya said...

And thiscwas Issac's test, his Lech Lecha.

Shiloh said...

Batya, if I may make you aware of ancient Jewish beliefs, a, yes, divine messiah was actually part of it until the work of the Rambam. Look at it logically, a messiah in today's time, we obviously know is not "divine" but in this chaotic world would have to have Divine protection to fight the world off. Is it possible the ancients just reported what they understood at the time of that stage of Jewish beliefs. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, they thought that a "Heavenly Host" would fight off the Romans if they where in a stage of utmost purity, well, we know how that turned out. The descriptive term of YHVH means basically "I will be who I will be" in the future tense. Technically it's easy to see the notzrim's misunderstanding when the Creator works through an emissary. The Netzarim (not Notzrim) and Ebionites actually did not believe in that this Jew from 2000 years ago was "divine" but it was brought by other sects of Jews (not associated with either the Netzarim or Ebionites) and later adopted by the apostate gentile Christians. Funny thing is also that the sole verse that the notzrim (roman gentile Christianity) base their "divine" mangod on is not found in any extant source that was used to create their highly corrupted NT. But since we don't know how to truly fight them with truth, logic and factual history, we get defensive. Honestly, Esav is nothing to worry about, see the book of Ovadiah.

Batya said...

Don't preach your interpretations to me, please. Not interested.

Shiloh said...

Not interpretations Batya, its historical fact. Deal with it. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6