In honor of the Bar Mitzvah
of Isaac son of Pesach Mordechai son of David, son of Michael
and Pesha Leah, daughter of Shabtai Zushe, son of Abraham
Oh, God said to Abraham, Kill me a son
Abe says, Man, you must be puttin' me on
God say, No. Abe say, What?
God say, You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run
Well Abe says, Where do you want this killin' done
God says, Out on Highway 61 Bob Dylan
Kill me a son?! Why would G-d ask Abraham to perpetrate such
a barbaric act?! And against his own beloved son the
son he prayed for, the only son that he and Sarah were miraculously
blessed with, the son that would become his heir, and fulfill
all G-ds promises to Abraham.
And Abraham silently acquiesces. Not that Abraham
didnt know how to protest when he wanted to. Just several
verses earlier in this weeks Torah portion we read about
Abrahams eloquent stand in defense of corrupt Sodom. When
Abraham hears that G-d wants to destroy the wicked Sodomites,
he loudly challenges G-d. Will you actually wipe out the
innocent together with the guilty? Shall the whole
worlds Judge G-d not act justly? In elaborate detail
we read about Abrahams protest on behalf of Sodom. 50,
45, 40,30, 20 Abraham cant find even 10 righteous
people in whose merit G-d would not destroy the city. Despite
all Abrahams fruitless efforts, the Torah documents his
attempt, even about a city that was unquestionably guilty of
perverse corruption, and finally destroyed for that reason.
By contrast, when Abraham is told to sacrifice
his innocent, beloved son Isaac, here suddenly Abraham is silent.
No protest, no argument, not even a hint of a question!
Clearly Abraham knew something that we do not. What was he aware
of that allowed him to so peacefully comply with G-ds
Firstly, he knew that precisely because Isaac
was innocent G-ds command to sacrifice Isaac was no punishment
(as it was in the case of Sodom).
Secondly, we must remember that at this point
Abrahams faith and connection to G-d had reached an unprecedented
state. Abraham is now 137 years old. He began his search for
G-d at age 3. After all his experiences, finally at age 75 G-d
calls to him Lech Lecho Leave your homeland
and go to the land that I will show you. When Abraham
is 100 Isaac is born. Now at age 137, after nine grueling trials,
Abraham has proved his absolute connection to G-d. Nisayon
is the Hebrew word for trial (or test).
As in G-d tested (nisoh) Abraham
in this weeks portion. Nisayon also
means to raise, to lift.
Abraham had now elevated to an extraordinary state
of being, where G-d was no longer just a higher entity, outside
and beyond our existence, a G-d that one submits and surrenders
to, but for Abraham at this point G-d is REALITY. G-d is the
essence of all existence. Abraham was no longer just having
Divine experiences, his being was permeated with
the Divine. He had become a merkovoh (chariot)
to G-d, where his entire being (every fiber) is a vehicle, a
channel for the Divine.
So, when Abraham hears that REALITY the
essence of it all requires (and therefore instructs)
that his beloved son Isaac be brought as an offering, he has
no doubt that this is necessary and just.
This is not merely Abrahams acquiescence
and compliance out of blind faith, it is the strength of a man
who had become utterly one with a Higher Will. And it is not
the sacrifice of Isaac, it is the offering
of Isaac, and Akeidat Yitzchak, the binding of Isaac.
Indeed, Vhaalayhu shom loleh,
words that imply elevation: Elevate him as an ascending
But why would Reality (G-d) require the offering
of a human life, of a beloved child?
One explanation: Reality did not require the offering
of the child, but the offering of Abrahams natural love
for the child. As the story concludes, that once G-d sees that
Abraham is ready to comply, he is told to not touch his son.
The test challenged Abrahams biological connection
to his son. That is why G-d emphasizes to take the son
you love to the Moriah area (the Temple Mount),
and there you should elevate him. Why rub
it in by stating that Isaac is the son you love? Because
the primary challenge here is not to offer Isaac, but to offer
Abrahams love for Isaac.
What is wrong with Abrahams natural love
for his son that he needs to offer it to G-d?
Why does a father love his child? Clearly, it
is a biological love. It is natural to love your own child.
One can even argue, that the love is because the child is an
extension of you. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that
such love can be limiting and under certain circumstances even
True, a fathers love to his son is unconditional
and absolute. A (healthy) father would readily give his life
for his child. Yet, even so, his love is ultimately subjective.
Because it is a love that comes naturally (with no effort and
choice), it is also bound by the natural and the biological.
In other words, the love will be on the fathers terms
and a love based on his understanding and his limits and parameters.
As great as the love may be, it is only as great as the father
himself is. If for instance the father subjectively and mistakenly
feels that something is good for his child, when in truth it
is not, he can harm his child in the name of love.
This is true even for a healthy parent. How much
more so an unhealthy one, who can project onto his child his
own insecurities and fears, and even use his child
as a scapegoat (G-d forbid).
Reality is telling Abraham: do not just love your
child with human love; love him with Divine love. A love that
is absolutely unconditional not just in its commitment
but in its objectivity. A love that is not just on human
terms and defined by biological circumstances, but one that
is beyond the natural. As great as a fathers love is to
his child, it still lasts only as long as the father is alive
and the child remembers its father. A love that is infused with
the Divine lasts forever.
G-d tells Abraham: I want you to offer your biological
love and replace it with Divine love. When you are ready to
do that, then you can return to your son and infuse your love
with the eternal love of the Divine. Yes, you do not have to
actually sacrifice your natural love for your child, but you
have to be ready to sacrifice it; and then, we
know that your love for your child will be at its purest, unconditional,
always for the good of the child, and a love that is eternal.
Imagine the new dimension of love that Abraham
had for Isaac after he was told not touch him. Imagine how he
must have clutched him how they must have hugged and
embraced after the Akeidah. And imagine the love Isaac
must have felt the rest of his life and what he passed
on to generations to come -- knowing that his fathers
love for him was not just a natural one, but a Divine one.
Had the Akediah not happened we would have
yet another story of a father and son. We would not know the
limits of this relationship. Neither would we know if this love
could endure all. The Akeidah experience which
we recite each day in our prayers leaves us with a legacy
of love from father to son, that is not just another among many
families, or another among all the species on Earth, of all
animals who naturally love their offspring; We now have the
birth of eternity that the love between father and son,
the legacy passed on from generation to generation is immortal.
A love and connection that can never be broken again and can
and will endure anything and everything.
No surprise then that the Akeidah took
place on Mount Moriah. The Akediah experience infused
the ground with sanctity, preparing it for the day when the
Holy Temple would be erected in its place.
Think of the scene of Abraham and his son walking down Mt. Moriah
after their experience together. That silent walk forged forever
a bond and unity that shaped history and makes us who we are
I just participated in a Bar-mitzvah of Isaac, a son of Abraham.
His Bar-mitzvah was in the week of Parshat Lech Lecho. As Isaac
was reading the parsha in shul (mind you, he read every word
of it impeccably), I was thinking about the power the
power of a 13 year old boy on the West Coast recreating the
story of Abraham and his journey 3740 years ago!
3740 year ago! Let me repeat that to myself: Three
thousand seven hundred and forty years ago
What are the odds of something being remembered
one year later?! And here were talking not just about
memory, but millions of people on Earth who trace their direct
lineage to Abraham and Issac, and moreover, live their lives
by the standards that Abraham and Isaac established and passed
And here we are, sitting in a makeshift synagogue
in California, listening to Abrahams journey, while Abrahams
other child is disturbing our populations all over the world.
And struggling over the Temple Mount upon which Abraham bound
Now a week later, we read and recreate the next
leg of the journey. Abraham has a son, and his son needs to
grow through his own experiences. His son may even perceive
that his father wants to kill him. But if he sees it through,
and allows the story to unfold, he sees that Isaac is born out
of him, and carries the legacy into eternity.
And then all the pains, all the scars, all the
prices paid all pale in comparison and melt away in the light
of the future.
Perhaps because Abraham was ready to kill his
son, his son never could die. He was able to transcend his natural
love -- ready to sacrifice HIS biological love to his son --
and transform it to a Divine love.
We are all asked to 'kill' our natural state and reach beyond;
when we are ready to do that, we do not actually have to kill
anything. On the contrary, we then can reach immortality. Because
remember, when you are dedicated to yourself and your own family
because they are part of you, as great as the dedication is,
it will always be defined by your own vision of greatness. However
when your love is infused with dedication to that which is beyond
you, to the eternal then you and your family too become
Let us learn from Abraham and Isaac. Let us be
bold and defy the call for conformity let us create a