Thoughts on Reading the Akedah -- Again
Bodoff, Lippman, Midstream
The Akedah has played such an important role in Jewish tradition and culture, history, and liturgy, that one is impelled -- even challenged -- to continually rethink its meaning to be sure we have it right. (1)
Doing so, it occurred to me that the secret of this challenge is the paradox that the Akedah presents, that national salvation requires that a cherished son of God, as all of humanity is, must be sacrificed to God. (2) If cherished, why sacrificed; and if sacrificed, in what way cherished?
It then occurred to me that the real paradox of the story may not be in the message but in the means necessary to convey that message -- a very different message -- in a text. If, as I have maintained, the test was, "Will Abraham obey Me with faith that I, God of the universe, will not let the sacrifice of Isaac come to pass," (3) and not "Will Abraham be willing to sacrifice Isaac at My Command," then I would argue -- and here is the paradox -- that it was necessary to portray Abraham as going forward ready to perform the sacrifice! This is so because, if the text instead said something like "And Abraham woke up the next morning (after being commanded to sacrifice Isaac) with faith that God would never, in the end, demand such a sacrifice, because this would not only violate His prior promise to Abraham to father a great nation through Isaac (4) but would run counter to everything that Abraham knew that God stands for and demands of mankind namely, justice, righteousness, and lovingkindness" -- then the text would be putting God on trial for the entire three-day trip to Mount Moriah. During that time, we would know how Abraham feels -- this sacrifice cannot be right, cannot be moral, cannot be what God really wants -- but we would not know where God stands!
Once you introduce the readers, the receivers of the tradition in each generation, to Abraham's inner faith, the story falls apart. We know, Abraham knows, God knows, everybody knows what Abraham believes about this demanded sacrifice, but no one knows yet what God believes, except that He requested it.
Moreover, there is another reason why it is inappropriate to tell the reader or listener, up …
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Publication information: Article title: Thoughts on Reading the Akedah -- Again. Contributors: Bodoff, Lippman - Author. Magazine title: Midstream. Volume: 48. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2002. Page number: 22+. © 2009 Theodor Herzl Foundation. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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