Re: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Yosey Goldstein (JOE-G@VM.VIPS.COM)
Mon, 25 Nov 96 15:01:31 EST

In Torah Forum v2 Issue 88 epaymar@hooked.net asked: "Why is it that no one
seems to take Abraham at his word? First he tells his servants that he and
Isaac will return. Then he tells Isaac that Hashem will provide the ram.
Why not take him literally? Perhaps, Abraham's great merit lies not in
blind obedience to Hashem's will, but rather in his firm belief that the
God of Mercy to whom he had committed himself would simply not follow
through on His order.

If this is the case, then all the troubling (to modern sensitivities)
aspects of the Akeda go away."

If one were to see what Rashi has to say on this the answer is clear. Rashi
comments on Avrohom's statement that "he said a prophecy and did not know
that he said a prophecy" In our vernacular one could say he he had a slip
of the tongue. In simple terms, Avrohom did not MEAN to say WE will return,
he meant to say *I* will return. It would seem from Rashi's explanation
that G-D made him say "WE" to tell everyone else that Yitzchock would not
be killed.

In the same issue Bill Bickel wrote: "In partial answer to my original
question, Yosey wrote: 'Once a person has such a close and intense
relationship with one's parent and the parent asks the child to do
ANYTHING. Will a child stop and question if his parent, who he knows knows
all and is perfect in his love for him, and say "Are you sure?" or "Do you
understand what you are asking of me?" Of a human parent who could make a
mistake, maybe. Of G-d who knows all and is ONLY good and kind, NEVER. Even
though I may not understand why it is good, but I know that G-D knows that
it is good."

Now see, here's where I have the problem: From where I stand, the sacrifice
of a child CAN'T be good, so a good and kind G-D ordering it -- or even
seeming to order it -- by definition can't make sense."

This brings up an issue that has surfaced recently and that is, WHO decides
any moral question? We say killing is bad. In China infanticide is rampant.
They do not think it is wrong to kill a female child, since the government
only allows 1 child per family and they WANT a boy! Now we understand THEY
are wrong, every American understands that. BUT when in comes to abortion,
(Which was discussed on this forum last year) there is a major difference
of opinion in this country. So WHO decides what is right?

As Jews we have accepted the Torah, we accept it's teachings and we allow
G-D to tell us what is right thru his Torah. Man's ideas of what is good
and bad changes as often as the styles change. However, Torah Jews have
NEVER changed there barometer of good and bad. G-D through his Torah has
explained it all to us. SO, If G-d gives a command then be definition it IS
good. We do not understand why it is good or how it is good. That is fine.
That is the definition of Naaseh Venishmah. We will do and we will hear.
That means we will do WITHOUT knowing or understanding why. This is the
definition of CHOK, a law that we were never given the reason for.

One more point, I paid a friend a condolence call last two years ago His
tragedy was of unbelievable proportions. Within 6 weeks of making a Bar
Mitzvah for his son his son passed away! One of those that came to comfort
him, a man who also lost a child, R"L, told him from a Godol, a great Torah
sage who after himself losing a child said. "If I were G-D I would have
done the exact same thing! Because if G-d does it IT IS GOOD! the only
difference is, if I were G-D I would understand WHY it was good." That is
our goal in life to accept G-D's will in our everyday life and KNOW that if
G-D did it is good, even though we do not know WHY or how it is good.

Another answer to this question can be illustrated with the following
Parable, (This was included in the DVARTORAH list on the Parsha of the week
published by Project Genesis and Rabbi Dovid Green.)

(The story is paraphrased from Reb Elchonon, The Artscroll History Series.)

A man completely ignorant of agriculture came to a farmer requesting to be
taught about farming. The farmer showed him his field and asked him "what
do you see?" "I see a beautiful piece of land, lush with grass, and
pleasing to the eye." Then the visitor stood aghast as he watched the
farmer plow the grass under and turn the field into a mass of shallow brown
ditches. "Why did you ruin the field!" he demanded. "Be Patient. You will
see," said the farmer. Then the farmer showed his guest a sackful of plump
kernels of wheat and said, "tell me what you see." The visitor described
the nutritious, inviting grain --- and then, watched in shock as the farmer
"ruined" it, walking up and down the furrows dropping kernels of grain into
the open ground, and covering them with soil. "Are you insane!" demanded
the man. "Be patient. You will see." After some time the farmer brought the
guest out to see the beautiful field lined with straight, green stalks
sprouting up from the furrows. "I apologize. Now I understand what you were
doing. You've made the field more beautiful than ever. The art of farming
is truly marvelous." "No," said the farmer. "We're still not done. You must
still be patient." When the stalks were fully grown the farmer came with a
sickle and cut them all down while his guest stood open-mouthed as the
field became a scene of destruction. The farmer bundled the grain and left
it to dry in the field. Later, he gathered the bundles to a place where he
beat and crushed them until all of the grains were separated from the
straw. Then he piled the grain into a huge hill. The farmer always answered
the protests of his guest saying "be patient." The grain was taken to a
mill where it was ground into formless, choking dust. Again the shocked
guest was told to be patient. The guest then marveled at the foolishness of
making white mud out of the dust and then shaping it into a loaf. After
placing the loaf into the oven, the guest asked the farmer, "after all that
work will you take it all and burn it?" "Have I not told you to be
patient?" asked the farmer. When the loaf was taken out of the oven and the
guest was offered a liberally buttered slice, the farmer said "now you
understand, my dear friend."

Our definition of Good is the exact same as the man in this story. We use
our myopic senses to define what is good. G-d has the knowledge and the
broad outlook to truly know what is good.

Hope this helps.

Yosey