Monday, October 14, 2013

Saying No to God

Parshat Vayera
Bereshit 18:1 – 23:24
15 Cheshvan 5774 / Oct. 18-19, 2013

Saying NO to God!
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

How do we begin to understand the story of the binding of Isaac (Akedat Itzhak)? To imagine that Avraham had the “faith” to kill his son is simply terrifying. I get a chill when I read the verse (22:10), “Avraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slaughter his son.”  Was he really planning to kill his son? Was Isaac really just able to hop on an alter to be bound and killed by his father? These questions have been occupying the minds of Torah scholars forever!  Some say that child sacrifice was a common practice back then and that this story displays a defining moment in monotheistic religions. Some say that Avraham actually killed Isaac, and then God brought him back to life! There are so many ways of reading this story and I would like to introduce the idea that in this story, Avraham learned to say NO to God.

When Avraham gets the command to kill his son (22:2) it contains the now familiar phrase: Lech-Lecha (simply translated as, “Go!”). This is the same phrase that Avraham perceived when God told him to leave his father’s house and take his family to Canaan. Perhaps Avraham heard this commandment as a continuation of his original journey. He showed faith in leaving all that he knew behind him and so he will show faith in offering his son to God.

In the plain text reading, as Avraham was about to slit his son’s throat, an angel beckoned from heaven to stay his hand (22:12), “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him…” I really hope that Avraham’s greatness was NOT in hearing the commandment to kill Isaac, but in his ability to hear this opposing call.

Our past actions set up our present behavior. And it is very easy to make choices simply on past decisions. Why vote for one party over another? Because my family votes for this party! Why don’t you like a certain food? Because I tried it once didn’t like it. We can become enslaved by our past and give up our freedom to act authentically in a fresh new moment!

This week we have the opportunity to consider our path through decision making. Do you rely so heavily on your past and so ignore critical new information that is presenting itself to you? Or the opposite, do you immerse yourself so fully into the present moment that you fail to consider the effort that has been put in by others that came before you? How can you be more balanced in your decision making?


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