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The Binding of Isaac

The Akeidas Yitzchok, or binding of Isaac, has troubled many students of Jewish thought. Here's the thread that Keith Brookenthal started on this topic:
From Volume 1 Digest 33
From: Brookenthal Keith <lcbrook@dapsas1.weizmann.ac.il>

It seems to me that Abraham failed the test, but I think we are supposed to think that he passed. I have heard only two halfway decent arguments about this, and neither is satisfying:

a) human sacrifice was common back then, so this was setting a revolutionary example. Well, people ate pork, too. But G-d didn't have to test Abraham with pork before telling him it was bad. He just said: "No pork!" (Excuse my anthropomorphism)

b) Abraham represents mercy and Isaac justice. Therefore, Isaac was merely accepting his fate recognizing that justice alone does not justify his existence. Abraham, as mercy, must transcend that one-dimensional aspect and acquire the next quality -- justice. This sounds nice in a literary way, but is empty as a moral guide or in considering the real actions of real people.

So if anyone has a satisfying explanation for the Akeidah, that would be great. I think it was a glaring moral error, and I am curious as to what others think. (Oh, if Moses could go against G-d to save the lives of wicked people, surely Abraham could stand up to Him to save his own son.)

Thanks,
Keith Brookenthal


From Volume 1 Digest 34
From: "David Baron" <DAVIDB@accent.co.il>

Avraham Avinu was promised that in Yitzchak will his seed be called/continued. So HaShem then calls upon him to go offer him up as an olah (sacrifice) !!!

1. Avraham does so without question--Avraham, as opposed to Moshe Rabeinu, NEVER questioned!

2. Avraham does so with ziruz (enthusiasm) --gets up a dawn, chops his own wood and saddles his own donkey (he was a rich man, even a king, so normally his servants would do these things!) and sets out...I have heard that his was the real test: to do a mitzvah that involves a (tremendous) loss, that is not understood, etc., with the same eagerness and joy as, say, sinchas yom tov..

3. The Satan went before HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed be He): Avraham feeds every passerby but never offers a korban!! So the akeidah was initiated. Satan made himself as if a deep river in the path to Mount Moriah, Avraham pushed on!

4. Yitzchak's role in all this: Why did he need to be so (inhumanly) bound up. Would he not, just like his father, stretch out his neck to the maachelet?? I saw somewhere that he was afraid that he might hesitate or move and cause the shechitah (slaughter) to be pasul (invalid), so said: Father bind me just in case!


From Volume 1 Digest 34
From: Brian Jackson <brianj@tartarus.uwa.edu.au>

In regard to Keith Brookenthal's statement regarding the Akeida I also have always found it difficult that Avraham was prepared to argue with Hashem to save the people of Sodom and Amorra and yet he was willingly prepared to sacrifice his only son, a command that would end the chance for a nation that would be as numerous as the star in the heaven. Moreover, human sacrifice was rife at the time and therefore it seems odd that Hashem would demand such an act

The only explnations which I have come up with threough my reading has been that in regard to Sodom this was a statement that Gg-d was going to do something and therefore Avraham could protest it while the Akeida there was a direct command.

Secondly, the test was also whether Yitzchak would submit to his father and Hashem's wishes. Thus he was being tested as well as his father. Any other ideas, Thoughts?

Brian Jackson


From Volume 1 Number 35
From: EDTeitz@aol.com

I do not agree at all with Keith Brookenthal's analysis of the akeidah. I think Avraham passed the test with flying colors. In fact it was a test that only Avraham could have passed. It is something to which we can not really relate ( maybe that is why we always discuss it from Yitzchak's perspective, rather than refer to the story as the 'Test of Avraham' ).

Anyway, the purpose of the test was to see how much faith Avraham had in G-D. Would Avraham - who spent his entire adult life preaching against child sacrifice - give in to G-D's wishes without question and without doubt?

Now Avraham had a perfect answer to G-D's request which G-D could not deny. Avraham could have said, 'I won't do it. Not for my sake or my son's, but for Your sake, G-D. After all, what will people say when they hear that I have sacrificed my son? They will say that I finally came to my senses and realized the true way to serve G-D. That until I had a son like Yitzchak I could not understand true faith in G-D, and that is why I preached against child sacrifice. But once I was given a son, I learned the truth.

Now, G-D, if You care about the world believing in You, and in Your message, You will understand why I can't sacrifice my son.'

However, Avraham did not say any of this. In fact he rushed in the morning to fulfill G-D's command. Merely walking out of his front door in the morning with Yitzchak and the knife was enough to pass G-D's test. And that Avraham did.

How many of us are ready to basically throw away our life's work on a command from G-D? To die as a Jew, in the sanctification of G-D's name, is something that we are unfortunately very familiar with. That was Yitzchak's test, the one we can understand. However, Avraham's was much harder, doing something that would hurt his message, and actually hurt G-D's chances of being recognized in our world.

Finally, Avraham too asked mercy for a group of sinners. He asked for the cities of S'dom and its neighborhood to be spared destruction. When Avraham was convinced by G-D of thre justice of the destruction he realized that he was dealing with a merciful G-D, who is also a just G-D.

Eliyahu Teitz


From Volume 1 Digest 35
From: Rena Freedenberg <mark@shani.net>

This letter is in response to Keith Brookenthal's question about the Akeidah. He wrote:

It seems to me that Abraham failed the test, but I think we are supposed to think that he passed. I have heard only two halfway decent arguments about this, and neither is satisfying: a) human sacrifice was common back then, so this was setting a revolutionary example. Well, people ate pork, too. But G-d didn't have to test Abraham with pork before telling him it was bad. He just said: "No pork!" (Excuse my anthropomorphism)... So if anyone has a satisfying explanation for the Akeidah, that would be great. I think it was a glaring moral error, and I am curious as to what others think. (Oh, if Moses could go against G-d to save the lives of wicked people, surely Abraham could stand up to Him to save his own son.)

First of all, Avraham Avinu did not fail the test of the Akeida given to him by Hashem. Human sacrifice was something that Avraham Avinu had been preaching against as something against Hashem's will to all of the idol worshipping nations. When Hashem tested Avraham Avinu by commanding him to do something that Avraham not only knew was wrong, but would make him look like a fool to the surrounding idol worshippers, Hashem was testing Avraham to see if he would follow Hashem's will without question and would give up the thing that was the dearest to him in the entire world; also, would Avraham trust that Hashem would fulfill the promise of making his offspring as numerous as the grains of sand on the earth when he was being asked to sacrifice the offspring this promise would be carried out through? Obviously, as Torah tells us, Avraham Avinu ran to do the will of Ha Kadosh Boruch Hu and he never doubted that Hashem would fulfill all of the promises that he made to him (Avraham Avinu). Not only was this not "a glaring moral error," as Keith supposed, but indeed it was the culmination of the ten tests by which Hashem proved to Avraham Avinu that he had the faith required to carry his children through the many tests and trials they would face in the times before Moshiach. How could Hashem ask for human sacrifice when the Torah explicitly forbids this horrible practice? Hashem did not, in fact ask for human sacrifice. Hashem's word to Avraham Avinu was v'ha'alayhu, bring him up. Rashi comments on this that Hashem did not say "slaughter him" because He did not intend for Yitzchak to be slaughtered, but only that he be brought up to the mountain and be prepared as a burnt offering. Once Avraham had complied literally and brought him up, Hashem told Avraham not to slaughter Yitzchak. This resolves the apparent contradiction between Hashem's original command that Yitzchak be brought as an offering and His later order that he remain unharmed. Avraham had been commanded to bring him up, which he did, but not to actually slaughter him. I hope that this helps to clear up the question somewhat.

Rena Freedenberg


From Volume 1 Digest 39
From: hayim@locus.com (Hayim Hendeles)

>From: Brian Jackson <brianj@tartarus.uwa.edu.au>
Subject: Re: The Akeidah

In regard to Keith Brookenthal's statement regarding the Akeida I also have always found it difficult that Avraham was prepared to argue with Hashem to save the people of Sodom and Amorra and yet he was willingly prepared to sacrifice his only son, a command that would end the chance for a nation that would be as numerous as the star in the heaven. Moreover, human sacrifice was rife at the time and therefore it seems odd that Hashem would demand such an act

First of all, you should note that *this was the whole point*. Human sacrifice was rampant at the time; Abraham had spent his entire life preaching about Monotheism, and how G-d was a merciful G-d who did not desire these abominations, etc. etc. Were he to carry out the Akeida would destroy and nullify all that Abraham stood for, and would negate his entire life. Certainly, it would be the ultimate in "chilul hashem" - desecration in G-d's name. And Abraham would have had every justification in the world for either reinterpreting G-d's command or delaying its execution, etc.

Thus, the question was: How far would Abraham be willing to go to follow G-d's command? Would he do so even at the risk of destroying his entire life, or was he the type ch"v that "would only observe G-d's command provided it matched their intellect and was not in conflict with their own desires" (as we see by many Jews today).

And, of course, Abraham passed with flying colors.

Also, it should be noted that G-d had never intented Abraham to kill Isaac. G-d said "bring him up". Abraham did so, and now G-d said "OK; you can bring him down now.". (Rashi).

The only explnations which I have come up with threough my reading has been that in regard to Sodom this was a statement that G-d was going to do something and therefore Avraham could protest it while the Akeida there was a direct command.

What you said is true, but its totally dehydrated. When G-d gave Moses the Ten Commandments, Moses did not bargain with G-d, and say "look, that's too many. How about a compromise - just give us 5. Or you know what, G-d, we'll go along with 9, but give in some place."

Obviously, one does not bargain with G-d. The Jews had committed themselves to G-d (naase vnishma), and whatever He said, we accepted. Period. No ifs, ands, ors, and buts. So when G-d tells Abraham to do something, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO TALK ABOUT.

On the other hand, when G-d tells Abraham about Sodom. This is none of Abraham's business, and Abraham has nothing to do about it. So why is G-d telling this to Abraham? Clearly G-d is implying to Abraham that he has an opportunity to do something about it. Hence, Abraham took G-d's hint, and actively petitioned G-d to save Sodom.

Hayim Hendeles


From Volume 1 Digest 40
From: mandes@rpi.edu (Shai Israel Mandel)

This conversation reminds me of some things I read in Rabbi Taubers book on the Holocaust (Any errors are mine, especially since its been a while since I read the book, and the book itself is not in front of me).

The Akeidat Yitzchak had a lot of significance. The nation of Israel was going to come from Avraham's decendents. At that point I believe that notion was clear. The particular decendent that this was going to come from was Yitzchak. That was also clear at that point. Furthermore, the whole world hinged (and still hinges to this day) on the Nation of Israel and on our acceptance of the Torah. In fact, G_d had Israel in "mind" before the creation of the world in the first place.

Thus, the plot was set. The Akeidat Yitzchak was not as significant in that Avraham almost sacrificed his most treasured, only, son Yitzchak. What Avraham did with so much enthusiasm was almost fulfill the action that would have destroyed the whole world, for the world could not exist without Israel.

Another vantage point as to Avrahams test was in comparison to Adam HaRishon (Adam, the first). Adam was a rightous, genius of a man. It is written that he was able to see from one side of the world to the other. That is a figurative way of saying that he knowlege of all future events. He knew that he would eat from the forbidden fruit, that mankind would be damaged because of this, and of the subsequent generations until Mashiach. He also knew of his one negative mitzva (commandment) which was not to eat from the forbidden fruit. Still, when the time came, he reluctantly fulfilled his destiny.

Avraham personified in his life and through his "tests" that he was of the opposite "spirit". No matter what his own inteligence told him, his job was first and formost to fulfill his duty to G_d. This was a correction to the damage done by Adam. That is also why it is Abrahams decendets that became Israel as opposed to Adams as was originally intended.

Awaiting Redemption,
Shai Israel

+  Shai Israel Mandel                 +  mandes@rpi.edu                 B"H 
+   Information Technology Services   +  mandels@cs.rpi.edu         
+   Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  +  mandes@jerusalem1.datasrv.co.il
                                         http://www.rpi.edu/~mandes

From Volume 1 Digest 40
From: Brookenthal Keith <lcbrook@dapsas1.weizmann.ac.il>

1) Rena Freedenberg mentioned that Hashem did not ask for a sacrifice, but only for a binding of Isaac. I don't know this part of the original text, but at the end, it says that Abraham grasped the weapon to be used for the sacrifice -- he understood that he was to sacrifice his son. If it were really only supposed to be a binding, then there really isn't a moral dilemma (if binding does not necessarily lead to sacrifice). Honestly, I don't really understand this argument (not trying to be mean -- I just don't understand it) -- as long as Abraham made the moral decision to sacrifice his son (yes, by G-d's order, but no one _has_ to do anything -- every autonomous decision is moral), he planned to discharge that duty or choice. He chose to sacrifice not only another human being, but his _son_. So while there may be a distinction to be made on G-d's side between "slaughter" and "binding," it seems that Abraham did not make this distinction. Maybe (I'm really guessing out of nowhere) the test was about trying to find a way to save life -- trying to find a way out/a loophole if that were required to save a life. Maybe if G-d really did say "binding," Abraham was supposed to do whatever he could to save Isaac and use that as a loophole?

2) Eliyahu Teitz mentioned that Abraham did indeed try to save the sinners of S'dom. But that is what is so frustrating -- he is willing to try to save this group of people but not his own son. While maybe it would be great to be willing to sacrifice everything for G-d (I have personal decisions yet to make), I think it is probably better _not_ to sacrifice one's (or another's) life unless it is absolutely necessary, and that this is not something we should rush into. So I do not know if this goes by halakha, but I would think it is better to find a way to save life before sacrificing it, if possible. Like I mentioned above, I think it might have been productive to at least look for a loophole or a way out of this human sacrifice which he was so intent on accomplishing (setting out in the early morning, packing everything himself, ...)

I was at a Shabbos dinner in Jerusalem (thank you, Jeff Seidel, for setting me up) and posed this question. I received an answer that, while still a little slippery, is a little satisfactory, too. It was brought up that at the giving of the Torah, we said "We will do, and we will hear," that we will do the will of G-d, and then maybe we will understand it. That is, that we obey unquestioningly first, and then hopefully we will understand why we did it. This applies retrospectively, they said, and so should apply to Abraham as well. What was still frustrating, though, was that Abraham pleaded for sinners in the past, but not for his own son. The difference, brought up on shabbos, was this: when Abraham pleaded for the sinners, it was because G-d told him what He was planning on doing. However, in the Akeidah, G-d gave Abraham a direct order. The message here was that direct orders are to be obeyed and everything else was at least arguable. While this is still slippery for me, it is the least slippery explanation I have heard so far.

However, it raises one question -- the Akeidah really has little relevance for us now. That is, this interpretation suggests that it is only a _direct order from G-d_ that must be obeyed. The Akeidah becomes relevant only withing this narrow limit -- when there is a direct command. I am not aware of any personal communications from Him to me as obvious as the one Abraham had. (I won't go into talking about the orders of magnitude of holiness difference -- too obvious) If no one has direct commands from G-d, then everything instead for us becomes like S'dom and Gomorrah -- arguable, and the Akeidah becomes a lot less important. (This last part is off the top of my head without too much insight)

So overall, I am still not really too satisfied with the Akeidah still.

-Keith Brookenthal


From Volume 1 Digest 40
From: Andy Kohlenberg <kohlenai@theodorhs.ecape.school.za>

I feel that Keith Brookenthal's point is well taken. Although it is undeniably true, as it has been pointed out in this forum, that Avraham passed the test. Nevertheless, the very concept of a Divine command of child sacrifice, is difficult for us to come to terms with. Does Hashem want us to kill our children? Of course not!

One common approach to this problem is to say that the command to kill Yitzchak was merely the means to bring Avraham face to face with a challenge or an opportunity which was of vital importance specifically to him in terms of his life's task which was to build the spiritual foundations of the Jewish People.

The second explanation that Keith Brookenthal acknowledges, but finds unsatisfying, is an example of this approach. The point of the test was not to establish Avraham as a competent child sacrificer. The point was rather to give Avraham an opportunity to show that he could go beyond mercy, which was a spiritual concept that he had mastered, in order to master an appreciation for justice as well.

I have found another way of explaining the significance of the Akaida. Perhaps Keith Brookenthal will find this one more satisfying:

If we look at Avraham's life story, as depicted by the Torah, we find that there is a conspicuous lack of inter-personal intimacy.

In contrast, We find that Yitzchak "loved" his wife and his children (Gen. 24,67. 25,28). We also find that Yaakov "loved" his wife and children (Gen. 29,18.37,3). With Yitzchak and Yaakov the passion and the pain, the fear and the courage associated with loving others are crucial to the message of their lives as well as the manner in which these moral teachings are imparted to the sensitive reader of the Torah.

When the Torah tells us about Avraham's life, it never uses the verb "to love" in reference to any person. Chaza"l (the Rabbis of blessed memory) point out that he was unaware of Sara's beauty (Gen. 12,11). Avraham must have intentionally distanced himself emotionally from his wife. Their relationship was based on common goals and a partnership in an exalted task outside of themselves (see Rashi on the Gen. 12,5). Furthermore, the survival strategy employed by Avraham and Sara in Egypt and in Philstine whereby she pretended to be his sister must also have demanded a certain measure of emotional distancing. Even if we accept that it was a necessary survival strategy how many husbands and wives would even be able to go through the motions of such a daring scheme?

We could analyse more sources to give more examples which illustrate the unique characteristics of Avraham's personality. What I am saying is that interpersonal intimacy was not his strength. Instead, His potential for intimacy was directed towards Hashem. Indeed one of the most intimate relationships between man and G-d described in the entire Torah refers to Avraham in the covenant between the parts found in Genesis 15.

Avraham's dedication to and love for Hashem caused him to distance himself emotionally from everything of this world. This was his greatness. However, in order to pass this level of dedication on to the next generation he needed to share this experience of dedication toward Hashem with someone who would carry on his teachings to future generations. There is a paradox here. How can Avraham share with another person the experience of detachment from all concerns of this world including interpersonal bonds?

Here is where the Akayda comes in. This mission of total sacrifice was the only way for Avraham to share the experience of total and absolute dedication to Hashem with his son, with his only son, with the one he loves, with Yitzchak. Although he passed the test when "he lifted up the knife to slaughter his son.." This moment of absolute dedication by father and son was perhaps just a means to achieve and equally significant achievement: "...and the two of them walked together."

Andy Kohlenberg
Theodor Herzl School
Port Elizabeth
South Africa


From Volume 1 Digest 46
From: Jeffrey Smith <f901030k@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us>

Three points on this subject. None of these are original, and I am a new subscriber, so if they have been made before, my apologies.
1) I remember learning that one should pray for others, and expect to be answered, but if one prayed for oneself, one should not expect an answer. [Maybe someone can give this point more justice than I.] So perhaps the difference between the binding of Isaac, and the destruction of the Cities, lies in there. In one case, Abraham would be simply praying for selfish reasons, and in the other, for unselfish reasons.
2) The real test involved in the Akeidah was that of bitachon. Did Abraham have enough trust in the Holy One, blessed be He, that he could commit everything to him, and accept Him apparently going back on his promise, and be secure in the knowledge that the Almighty would make everything come out right, and that everything was for the best? Abraham passed this test with flying colors. But in the case of Sodom, no acceptance of the Divine Decree was called for. In fact, Abraham was practically invited by the Deity to put his $.02 in--as another poster has noted.
3) According to the Midrash, Isaac was a full grown adult at the time. So he too was tested, and passed. How many of us could cooperate in our sacrifice?

Jeffrey Smith
f901030k@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us


From Volume 1 Digest 46
From: MCHAIT.BROOKLAW@pcm.brooklaw.edu (Myron Chaitovsky)

Two Midrashim on Akeida and Sdom/Amora incident may help to clarify some of the preceding discussion. I apologize if this is repetitious but I have just joined this network.

Why, the Midrash asks, did Avraham stop his plea to Hashem at 10 righteous inhabitants of the five endangered cities? Because, the Midrash answers, he knew from his studies at Shem&Ever U.that Noach +3 sons + 4 spouses + Hashem (=9) not enough to avoid Destruction of Mabul (Flood). Midrash notes that Lot had two married sons hence Lot + 2 sons + 3 spouses + 2 unmarried daughters + Hashem( = 9 ) not enough to save the day.
Avraham's hope was that at least one person who had come under his or Lot's influence, was living in the area and would sway the balance.
The point here is that despite Avraham's willingness to challenge Hashem, he also understood when to quit.
Now Midrash expands the opening text of the Akeida,too. Hashem says "...et bincha,et yechidcha, asher ahavta,et Yitzchak (your son,your only son whom you love,i.e. Yitchak )." Why all this specificity and/or circumlocution? Because Avraham caught onto Hashem very quickly,at least insofar as the object of the trial/nisayon to come. He immediately challenged Hashem: My son? I have more than one son; an only child? each is an only child to his own mother; whom I love? I love them both!
But when Hashem clearly states that He is referring to Yitzchak, Avraham understands that the time for challenge is passed; now is the time for obedience.


From Volume 1 Digest 46
From: MIKE30957@aol.com

This can be a possible answer to most people's dilemmas regarding Akeidat Yitzchak (the binding of issac):

We cannot even try to understand what the purpose of the akeidah was, or why Avroham did not do anything to save Yitzchak. We do not see the entire picture. Obviously, we saw in the end that Hashem was only testing Avraham. But who knew that when he ascended the mountain?
we must learn from Avraham and apply it to our everyday lives. Often we come across things that we do not understand or do not seem fair. But hashem always has a purpose and we never know his intentions. It is inherent in every human being tha he is not able to understand hashem.

Here is a mashal(parable) that will help explain this:
Once a person from a big city came to the country on a visit. He saw his friend the farmer take perfectly fine bushels of wheat and through them into the ground. He said to his friend,"what are you doing? you are destroying good food?" So after a couple of months, the man from the city saw the new crop sprout and the farmer harvested it.
Life can be compared to the thoughts of the city person. if he would have returned to the city before the crop ripened, he would have thought the farmer was an idiot. However, only because he stayed did he see the big picture and the farmer's purpose. Therefore, we can learn from this that we do not always know Hashem's intentions, but we must listen to him an do what he says becasue we do not see the whole picture.

thanks

Michael Goldstein
Potomac,MD


From Volume 1 Digest 46
From: Ellen Payne Solomon <payne@yu1.yu.edu>

...However, it raises one question -- the Akeidah really has little relevance for us now. That is, this interpretation suggests that it is only a _direct order from G-d_ that must be obeyed.... I am not aware of any personal communications from Him to me as obvious as the one Abraham had.... If no one has direct commands from G-d, then everything instead for us becomes like S'dom and Gomorrah -- arguable, and the Akeidah becomes a lot less important.

-Keith Brookenthal

On the contrary, the Akeida is perfectly relevant: in Abraham's time, there was no Torah. Abraham was the first Jew; the laws he followed were based on special commands from G-d, and--as midrashim (Tanaitic narratives based on the Tanach) teach us--his own understandings of what was moral and just. Only several generations later did we become a community, with a body of law to follow. Our direct orders are the commandments!

Perhaps the distinction between the Akeida and Sodom is that the Akeida was a command, while the future of Sodom was a plan. The teshuva (repentance) process is based on the ability to nullify a plan, specifically an evil decree that comes from sinning. Abraham was tapping into a related aspect of Divine mercy by arguing on behalf of the few righteous among the many wicked.

-Ellen Solomon


From Volume 1 Digest 46
From: "Ken Goldman - Tieline 863-7396" <kgold@watson.ibm.com>

Brookenthal Keith wrote (in part):

However, it raises one question -- the Akeidah really has little relevance for us now. That is, this interpretation suggests that it is only a _direct order from G-d_ that must be obeyed. The Akeidah becomes relevant only withing this narrow limit -- when there is a direct command. I am not aware of any personal communications from Him to me as obvious as the one Abraham had.

Andy Kohlenberg wrote (in part):

I feel that Keith Brookenthal's point is well taken. Although it is undeniably true, as it has been pointed out in this forum, that Avraham passed the test. Nevertheless, the very concept of a Divine command of child sacrifice, is difficult for us to come to terms with. Does Hashem want us to kill our children? Of course not!

The Akeidah is certainly one of the most difficult incidents for us to understand.

My Rabbi stresses that the Torah is not just past history. The stories are about us. So, to Keith, each of us is Abraham, and the story is relevant to us. And to Andy, I would word the statement that Hashem asks us to offer up our children as a sacrifice. Even today.

Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but the threat is always there. When we become parents, we have a choice. Do we raise our children as Jews, or do we convert to a "safer" religion.

Each parent who choses to raise their children as Jews puts that child at risk. The risk can range from death or physical injury to loss of a job or acceptance to a university to rejection by classmates or a potential spouse.

When the messiah comes, persecution of Jews will have come to an end. Until then, we are all Abraham.


From Volume 1 Digest 50
From: David Foster <davidf@pipeline.com>

This is the first time I ever posted anything anywhere, so I hope I do this right.

I always understood the Akeidah this way: Like any test, the important thing about the Akeidah was the information that was supposed to be learned, i.e., that we don't sacrifice humans (a somewhat radical idea at the time). Like most other tests, the Akeidah was made to be traumatic, so the test-taker will remember the experience and the information. Like most other tests, Abraham's test results (he got a 100) have been elevated in importance over the primary goal - to encourage someone to learn something.

Although results seem very important when you're in school and you're looking at your grade, the really important thing is to have learned. So, in my opinion, while it's nice that Abraham aced the exam, the important thing is that the information was imparted to everyone. And I don't feel bad at all that I would not have considered sacrificing my son. Abraham scored higher on the test than me, but we both learned the lesson.

Does this make sense?


From Volume 1 Digest 56
From: Tsirkin Michael <mtsirkin@iil.intel.com>

David Foster writes:

I always understood the Akeidah this way: Like any test, the important thing about the Akeidah was the information that was supposed to be learned, i.e., that we don't sacrifice humans (a somewhat radical idea at the time). Like most other tests, the Akeidah was made to be traumatic, so the test-taker will remember the experience and the information. Like most other tests, Abraham's test results (he got a 100) have been elevated in importance over the primary goal - to encourage someone to learn something.

Although results seem very important when you're in school and you're looking at your grade, the really important thing is to have learned. So, in my opinion, while it's nice that Abraham aced the exam, the important thing is that the information was imparted to everyone. And I don't feel bad at all that I would not have considered sacrificing my son. Abraham scored higher on the test than me, but we both learned the lesson.

Does this make sense?

I don't think that the primary goal of Akeida could be to encourage Avraham to learn that we don't sacrifice humans. Please mind that Avraham ovinu had to know about this prohibition already. Of course, this doesn't contradict with the fact that WE can study a lot from Akeida .
It also seems not to be properly correct to say that Abraham's test results have been elevated in importance over the primary goal.
Rashi explains that Avrohom is commanded:
"Kah-na et-binha et-iehidha asher ahavta et-Itzhak" and not just "et-Itzhak" to increase his merit. And in many other places we can study that KB"H [the Holy One, Blessed be he] "Marbei mitzvot kdei leharbot zhut": "Iagdil tora ve-iaadir" [Increased mitzvot in order to increase (our) merits, in order to make great and glorify the Torah]. We know that if somebody suffers and can't find any sin - then it is for bitul tora [wasting time from study]. If he couldn't find even then - that is, he is innocent of bitul tora - it's ahavah [love] - he has to know it is because KB"H loves him and lets him suffer to make his rewards bigger.
We know that Avraham didn't sin , nor did he (Heaven forbid) waste time from Torah - thus he couldn't know that he won't be commanded to kill his son. You see , it's difficult to study from Akeda that we shouldn't sacrifice human - instead , we can study that we are to be ready to sucrifice ourselves and even our beloved ones - don't you agree? And we can be demanded for this at any time - there is mitzva of Kiddush Ha-Shem, sanctifying G-d's name, remember? in The Torah-Forum Digest V1 N46 I've read a very beautiful and delicious dvar torah on this subject by Ken Goldman. It's difficult for me to agree that "the important thing is that the information was imparted to everyone" - doing is always more important than knowing. Rash"i writes that Avraham was told "Ve-Haalehu" and not "shahtehu" : in hebrew literally "raise" and not "kill" - so that Avraham in fact did fulfill this mitzva, as he had brought his son to the top of har ha Moria. Thus, in fact Avraham was , as all of us are ,commanded "haalehu" about his son - and everybody can do this by teaching his children torah - as this will let Geulah come and bring them to Har ha-moria - the Temple! The important thing is for us to do this , not to know that Avraham avinu has done this and be happy . And, you can also "score in this test" higher than Avraham avinu ! "Gdola tshuva she-magiah el kisei ha-kavod " [Great is Torah, for it reaches to the Divine Throne.] If you return to HaShem and become ready to sacrifice yourself and anything of yours to HaShem Ithborah - tshuvah comes to the throne of KB"H - higher than har ha-moria!

I'm sorry all these things I've written are well-known and of course not any hiddush [anything new] at all.

Gaonei torah [scholars] have told so much on Akeda - and I can't say I know a little part of all these beautiful writings - but I am sure that even someone who didn't read these can understand the pshat of Akeda- Avraham 's love to KB"H that had no limit.

Yours,
Michael Tsirkin.


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