– VAYARA – 5768
Akeida: another look
"There are some mistakes you need a Ph.D to make."
Dr. Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?”
years ago, in the halls of Yeshiva University, a young boy approached Rabbi
Solevaitchik with a question; “Why is it that Har Sinai-the location of our
rendezvous with G-d, where we became a nation- is hidden from us, but Har
Harmorai is open to our discovery and use?” His answer: “Sinai is where G-d
revealed Himself to us-Har Hamoria, however, is where we revealed ourselves to
is no question that this week’s reading is the moment in our history when we
realized heights unimagined. Here, on the mountain with Isaac bound and Abraham
prepared, G-d saw, and we see, what true devotion can be.
we can not help but feel as if we are missing something. Can it really be that
this is Divine? Killing a son? We decry this act when other “religions”,
Lhavdil, devote themselves to G-d in such ways , when we see parents sending
their children to death, yet , at the same time we embrace such an action as our
watershed moment, our raison d'etre?
have all seen explanations, but we are still left with a feeling of unease at
this test, and we are not alone.
Rashbam (12th century), however, suggests something that I believe
will change our view of this act as well as change the way we read these Pesukim,
forever. His interpretation is nothing short of breathtaking in light of all
that we know and have been taught until now, and, had this not come from an
eminent a sage as he, we would not even consider such a radical change in how we
view this act.
test begins (22:1) “ACHARHADVARIM HA’AILEH- And It Was After These
Things”. After which things? Rashi explains this to be referring to
Yishmoel and his challenges to Isaac. Other commentators have a similar
analysis. But not the Rashbam. The Rashbam begins his explanation by teaching a
rule: “Any time the Torah says ACHAR HADAVARIM HA’AILAH it is referring
to the events described immediately preceding the ones presently taught ( he
goes on to prove this theory from many places)… and here the Torah had just
taught the story of Avimelech and his peace treaty with Avraham.”
Continues the Rashbam, “that “peace deal” so incensed G-d in Abraham
for giving away land that was not his to give away that, ‘HASHEM NISSA ESS
AVRAHAM’ – NISSA”, explains the Rashbam, does not, here, mean test,
for otherwise why would it only us that word by this challenge only, rather, “
it means aggrieved/punished
Avraham to show him what it feels like to have something taken away that should
remained.” The Akeida was only Divine, according to the Rashbam, in the
way any punishment of G-d is divine- but accordingly this was not an act to
learn from-on the contrary-what we need to learn is from the mistake of Avraham,
but not to imitate that pain or to say it is the paradigm- but to learn the
lesson from it.
extraordinary then the new approach this Rashbam teaches is the underling secret
it shares. There is a mystery within this Rashbam: here is Avraham trying to do
good for his children, the father of our nation, and he is punished so
magnificently for an act that was so well intentioned. Why would G-d punish
Avraham so fiercely for an act so sincere in its execution?
week, while driving home from Toronto, while the kids watched a video in the
back of the van, we were listening to NPR up front, Chris Mathews, from MSNBC
fame, was the guest. While talking about the election he mentions a candidate,
and I won’t say who-but she is a senator from NY, and makes the following
comment, “the only reason Republicans do not like her, or at least do not feel
comfortable with her, is because of her gender, and they will use that against
her”. This did not sit well with me. So I called in and said the following:
“Forget politics, forget Hillary, forget Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir and
their electibilty to even in those ardent conservative, what is so anathema
about politics these days is not the lack of sincerity, but the lack of
believing there is sincerity. Can it not be that a
candidate-on either side-is not liked because people actually have a different
world view? Does there always have to be some nefarious motive?
night I asked a question that at the time I had no answer to: Rashi (18:5)
brings a Midrash (B”R 48:11) in the beginning of this week’s Parsha which
teaches that Angels have no Yetzer Hara-Evil Inclination. Yet, seemingly
contradicting himself, in this same Parsha, Rashi (19:22) tells us how
the angels who saved Lot were punished ("זה עונשן...")
something out of line to their mission (B”R (50:9).
the truth is neither Rashi nor the Midrash ever said that angels do not have Bechira,
indeed it was made clear that they do have wants but only good desire i.e. a
Yetzer Tov- Good Inclination.
that was said is what they do not have - a Yetzer Hara - and we do not
need a Yetzer Hara to sin. Indeed, most sins, by most descent people are well
intentioned. Nobody means to hurt anybody, rarely are people evil rather
they are sometimes just wrong.
the Nissayon/aggrievment of the Akaida teaches, what G-d was teaches us
at that profound moment, was that our –Knesses Yisroel’s - most powerful and
transcending follies may come from virtuous objectives. As Dr.
Francis Fukuyama said above, it can be precisely those same good characteristics
of a people, be it brain power, expertise or trust that can be its downfall.
We can take this lesson and apply it to the current situation
in and about Yerushalim, seeing many believing, shamefully, that there is
another side with good intentions.
And, we can also
take this and apply to our selves and those who we disagree with within Knesses
Yisroel, on this matter and a myriad of others, how
we, at times, do not allow ourselves to hear the other side because they are not
just wrong, no, they are wicked. We do not disagree, no, we fight.
is it, when vociferous voices, opinions, are made we say - I’ll tell you what
is really going on here, the Chareidim are trying to take over; I’ll
tell you what is really going on here, the Daatiem are vying for power; And, so,
we do not get done what needs to get done. But perhaps it is not about money.
Maybe it is not about Kavod or fame. Maybe, just maybe our “enemies” are
“sinning” with their Yetzer Tov.
when we celebrate the engagement of Mark and Shira, we hope that they understand
that for a marriage to last there needs to be a trust that when mistakes are
made- and they will be made- if we choose that our spouse harmed us with their
Yetzer Hara then you’re doomed, however, if we can believe in “honest
mistakes” then there is only hope for true love, growth and understanding.
us hope the A-mighty gives us the wisdom to see our enemies for what they stand
for and our brothers and sisters for what they are trying to say.
 This too he proves, see there for his grammatical analysis.
Yomi takes place nightly at the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo, 105 Maple Road,
after the evening services. For complete schedule call 634-0212 or visit their
web site at yibuffalo.org