D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero



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This week’s portion contains one of the most difficult sections of the Torah: Akeidas Yitzchok—The Binding of Isaac.  In order for us to properly understand this story we must look at the circumstances surrounding the story, and to thus see the story through the perspective of historical reality.

In last week’s D'var Torah, we discussed who exactly Avraham was, and how, through the choices he made, he was chosen to be the progenitor of the Jewish people. The actions of our ancestral “fathers” (Avraham, Isaac and  Jacob) and “mothers” (Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah) would have a great role in affecting our destiny. In effect they created a “spiritual D.N.A.” that would become a part of us as much as our physical D.N.A. And in assuming this responsibility, these people accepted upon themselves a deeper level of trust with G-d—a level befitting a builder.

They would prove themselves worthy of this builder/founder status by undergoing tests of belief.

G-d told Avraham: “Take your beloved son and go the land of Moriah; bring him up there as an offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you” (Gen. Ch.22 V.2). When G-d told him this, this was not an introduction to G-d. At this point Avraham had already been communicating with G-d for over eighty years. Avraham already had a deep level of trust with G-d.  So when G-d told Avraham to bring his son as an offering, although he did not understand it, he had enough of a relationship with G-d that he trusted Him implicitly. This was not blind faith. This was the ultimate display of confidence. And he was willing to do the seemingly unthinkable, to submit to the idea which he had spent a good part of his life fighting against—human sacrifice. 

That is what this whole story is about—trust:  the trust between G-d and Avraham and the trust between Isaac (who had never heard the command from G-d, yet was willing to be sacrificed because he trusted his father) and Avraham.  Rabbenu Nissim (13th century Spanish Rabbi) said that there was such a degree of trust between Avraham and G-d that when G-d told him to bring his Isaac as an offering, G-d did not command him, He requested of him.  Why would such a request be necessary? To instill in the Jewish people the concept that for Judaism, if the circumstances require it (then and only then), it is worth giving up our lives. And throughout the generations this is something Jews have tragically, yet triumphantly, been willing to do.

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