Thursday, September 29, 2005

“Would you take your only son . . .?”

I've been a regular shul-goer for 32 years. I've heard the story of the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac (and of his near-sacrifice) read in synagogue twice every year for 32 years. It's read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and during the regular cycle of weekly Torah (Bible) readings in the reading Parshat Vayera (Genesis, chapter 18, verse 1-chapter 22, verse 24—the story of the Binding of Isaac is in chapter 22, verses 1-19) . My husband and I have discussed it many times. We've concluded that Hashem wanted to see whether Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Patriarch) would show as much devotion to Him as a pagan would have shown to a pagan god, who, in that era, would have demanded child sacrifice. The difference, of course—and it's a huge one—is that Hashem didn't allow Avraham to go through with the sacrifice of his child.

But to speak of this on an intellectual level is one thing. To speak of it on a personal level is another. For so many years, I've tried to ignore this question, but, somehow, when it's put to music, it reaches out past my defenses and goes straight to my heart:

"Would take your only son?
Would you lay your answer down?
Would you bind him to the stone?
Would you take your only son?"

The first time I heard Blue Fringe's "Hineni," I almost turned it off. The second time, I listened closely, because, given the way the song had affected me the first time, I knew that I would have to write about it. The third time was this morning, when I began writing this post—I listened so that I could write down the lyrics. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to listen to it again. It’s a beautiful song, but I can’t bear to hear the words.

Because I have an only son.

And the answer is "No."

"Ani maamin, be-emuna sh'lema . . . I believe with perfect faith . . . "

I sing these words to honor my ancestors, factual or metaphorical, who died with the Sh'ma on their lips. I sing these words for the martyrs who died al k'dushat haShem, for the sanctification of The Name, during the wars in which the Temples, first and second, were destroyed. For those who died during the revolts of the Maccabees and Bar Kochba. For the Ten Sages, whose terrible deaths we commemorate during the Martyrology on Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement. For the victims of the Crusades, the pogroms, the Shoah/Holocaust. For all those who have died because they were Jews.

I sing those words to honor my ancestors. Not because I believe them.

Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I'm hiding, but it’s my faith that’s naked.

Either you believe that life’s misfortunes are random, or you believe that Hashem has His reasons. I cannot accept either the idea, promulgated by some, that misfortune is a punishment for sin, or the idea, supported by others, that we must simply accept misfortune and not question why, because Hashem’s ways are beyond human comprehension.

Avinu haAv haRachamun haM’Rachem—Our Father, Compassionate Father Who has compassion . . .” Does He? If so, why did He deem it necessary to put Avraham (and, for that matter, Iyov/Job) through such a trial?

Eish u’varad, sheleg v’kitor, ruach s’arah osah d’varo—Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling His word” (Psalm 148). Why should I trust a G-d who stands by while thousands die in tsunamis and hurricanes to stay my hand and put a ram in my son’s place?

Hineni? Here I am?

No.

If they asked me, I would die al k'dushat haShem.

But I would not take my only son . . .

36 Comments:

Blogger Soferet said...

BS"D
Your post caused me to weep, Shira. Thank you.

It calls to mind Derrida's dense work, The Gift of Death. In it he analyzes Akedat Yitzchaq as a most secretly intimate act, serving to annihilate Avraham's last residual defiance through the subjugation of his most dear. A recommended read.

& my answer would be the same as yours.

Thu Sep 29, 01:23:00 AM 2005  
Blogger treppenwitz said...

This was a very powerful post on a subject that any observant person (especially one with children) has confronted on one level or another.

I sit in 'shul' on Rosh Hashanna each year and look out the window at the actual route through Gush Etzion that Avraham and Yitzchak took on their way to Har Moriah. The hill across from where I live is most likely the one from which Hashem actually pointed out their destination (it is the furthest point south from which Har HaBayit can be seen).

Yet even with this close proximity to direct reminders of the Akeida story, I have wondered whether I would pass such a test.

Then last year as I sat looking out at the hillside over which this famous father and son must have walked, I realized the missing component from decision-making process; Direct contact with G-d.

For whatever reason, you and I live during a time when G-d's 'face' is turned away from us... or at least his intentions are obscured. Avraham, on the other hand, had the benefit of direct communication with G-d (ok, there was an angel as intermediary).

Our test today is with emunah - belief. In the absence of direct contact with the Creator of the world we face a daily struggle to simply continue believing in the existence of a master plan (and a Master guiding that plan).

Avraham's test was one of obedience. He and his wife had both had fairly solid empirical proof of G-d's hand in the event's of their lives, not to mention the world. Therefore their test (meaning both avraham and his adult son Yitschok), was not one of belief, but rather of obedience.

It is frustrating to be so far removed from the Divine Presence that we must struggle daily with simply believing in It's existence. But I sit at my window in shul and listen to the story of Avraham and Yitschak and thank G-d that I am only asked to believe... and not offer up my most precious possession in order to prove my obedience.

L'Shana Tova.

Thu Sep 29, 01:59:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Shifra, thank you so much for your kind comment. The song had pretty much the same affect on me that my post had on you.

Treppenwitz, I hadn't considered the fact that Avraham had first-hand experience with Hashem's presence, and, that, therefore, his trial was one of obedience, rather than faith. That's a very helpful insight. Thank you for your thoughful reply.

Thu Sep 29, 06:57:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Early-morning blogging does make one groggy later in the morning. Sorry I changed your name, Soferet.

Thu Sep 29, 07:00:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A powerful post, Shira.

There are commentators within Jewish tradition who have argued that Abraham "failed" this test -- that he was meant to argue, to disagree, as he did in the case of Sodom and Gemorrah.

I wrote about this in my Rosh Hashanah sermon last year. After the Akedah, G-d never speaks directly to Abraham again; could this be because Abraham so gravely disappointed him, by interpreting this order as one he could not reason with?

Anyway, I talked about several different interpretations in that sermon, and I found that the experience of writing it gave me new eyes with which to see the Akedah. Perhaps it will be helpful to you.

Thu Sep 29, 07:58:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Unknown said...

VERY thoughtful post Shira...and what David said later is also extemely insightful. I agree with you though. I would have a hard time with even the request of obedience but then as David adeptly points out...we struggle with simply BELIEF in the Divine Presence while Sarah and Avraham never really had that issue. It does change things.

Thu Sep 29, 10:09:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, and I'm going to reference it (and respond, sort of) on my blog. Thanks.

Thu Sep 29, 12:44:00 PM 2005  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I was going to say something similar to what David (trep) wrote, but less eloquently.

If you knew G-d existed and was intimately involved in every thing you did, not just in an abstract way, but concretely, because he appeared to you and took you and performed miracles in front of you and showed you things (remember Avaraham had a long argument over the fate of Sodom with G-d), would you have a problem with faith? No.

If He nevertheless told you to do something which seemed to you, in your limited knowledge, to make no sense? That's the big question. If a doctor tells you he has to chop off your leg so that you may live, would you let him do it? If it were malignant, festering, chronically infected and causing pain...of course. But if it looked normal or had no symptoms you might think twice about it.

That being said, I would surely fail the test.

BTW it is a very cool song. I was listening in the car on the way over today.

Thu Sep 29, 02:07:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a parent so I can only speculate, but I stronly suspect that I would pass this test -- by refusing to obey. I'm not convinced that Avraham passed; the same man who argued for S'dom and G'morah obeys without question a command to kill his child? I'm not sure that makes sense.

I'm leining this portion this year and that's got me thinking about it even more than normal. I'm conflicted.

Monica (another Shira)

Thu Sep 29, 03:23:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

I would fail this test. I cannot imagine ever agreeing to it, even in the context that David described I find it tough to consider.

I cannot conceive of not looking G-d in the eye and saying no.

Thu Sep 29, 04:29:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Soferet said...

BS"D
Thank you for my new name, Shira! May I have the z'chut to bear this blesséd name!
:)
I'm really touched by everybody's posts. I've not yet enjoyed the priviledge of being a parent, but I cannot imagine choosing that a child of mine would die, even if G@d demanded it of me. He would have to take me, in all my feeble rage, first.

Fri Sep 30, 12:23:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I must confess to being somewhat overwhelmed by the response. I'm slowly but surely catching up on related posts and links on Rachel's blog, (velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/), and Mirty's blog, (mirty12.blogspot.com/), and thank Hasidic Musician of Blog in DM (blogindm.blogspot.com/) for linking to this post.

Rachel, I will get around to reading both of your posts, eventually, when I'm awake. I confess to being puzzled: If Avraham "failed the test," why was he rewarded with a promise of numerous descendants?

Mirty, thanks for the kind words in the post on your blog.

And Jack of the Shack, I'll get around to reading the post you linked to in the comments to Mirty's post, eventually, too.

I agree with Monica: How could Avraham argue with Hashem for the lives of the residents of Sodom and Gemorrah, but not for the life of his own child? I've always found that fact one of the most flabbergasting things about this story. Was he just stalling for time? Or did he really have so much faith in Hashem, and, if so, why? Hashem was acting like a pagan god in demanding child sacrifice. What reason did Avrahm have for believing that Hashem wouldn't make him go through with it, just as all the other gods did?

My only consolation comes from the liturgy. At morning minyan on Thursday, the words of Ashrei leaped off the page: Tov Hashem lakol, v'rachamav al kol maasav. Hashem is good to all, and His compassion is upon all His work (Psalm 145, verse 9)." And this, from the first brachah/blessing before the Sh'ma: "Ha-meir la-aretz v'ladarim aleha b'rachamim, He Who lights the earth and those who dwell upon it in compassion . . . "

And from the same brachah: "Elokei olam, b'rachamecha ha-rabim, rachem alenu, G-d of the universe, in Your great compassion, have compassion upon us . . ."--*This* is the G-d I want to believe in!

Would that I could.

Fri Sep 30, 01:40:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course we would all fail the test; and that is why Hashem would never ask it of us!! Hashem only tests a person on his level. We can not even comprehend the degree of difference in Emunah and bitachon between us and the Vilna Gaon for example...We can not even begin to think whether we would pass a test that Avraham did...The answer every person that ever lived would give except for Avraham is a rsounding NO!! I could never do that!

Fri Sep 30, 02:07:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Naftali, if I had your faith, I would never have written this post.

The question, for me, is whether either Hashem's test or Avraham's answer is a good thing or a bad thing.

I think Avraham's *original* response, earlier in Parshat Vayera (Genesis, chapter 18, verse 25) was the right one: "HaShofet kol ha-aretz lo yaaseh mishpat? The Judge of all the earth will not justice [act justly]?" What is so just about child sacrifice, that Hashem should even test Avraham to see whether he's willing? I can see this *only* in its historical context. I can't see it as a test of faith, because I would have no faith in a G-d who would demand such an abomination of me, even as a test of willingness.

Fri Sep 30, 09:11:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Parshat Vayera (Genesis, chapter 18, verse 25) was the right one: "HaShofet kol ha-aretz lo yaaseh mishpat? The Judge of all the earth will not *do* justice [act justly]?" Sorry about the missing word.

Again the question, Naftali: Why does Avraham not challenge Hashem when Hashem threatens to take his own son's life, when, earlier, he'd challenged Hashem when Hashem threatened to destroy Tz'dom and Amorah? Why should he care *more* about the lives of people who are not his own flesh and blood?

Fri Sep 30, 09:20:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

doesn't it actually say that avraham said "WE'll" be back'...meaning on some level he knew that he and yitz would be returning together....?

josh

Fri Sep 30, 08:12:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

josh, Avraham Avinu was blessed with faith. I'm afraid I can't say the same for me.

Sat Oct 01, 10:21:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shira, thanks for letting us know about this thread. First off, let me just say on behalf of the band that it is extremely gratifying for us, and it makes us feel so humbled and fortunate to see that our music has inspired such an important and holy discussion; thanks to all those who have participated.

I personally think that if I were faced with Avraham's particular test, I would fail. I think most of you have said the same thing. Avraham was of an extreme stature in terms of his faith, or better yet, in terms of his knowledge of G-d. After all, he is basically credited for coming onto monotheism by himself. We're obvioulsy dealing with someone extraordinary, and in light of that fact, it is feasible to me that we may not be able to fully grasp enough about the test to understand why it is a fair test or why G-d is even able to ask such a thing of anybody. Granted, human sacrifice is against G-d's nature, and that may be why the test was so paramount. We see G-d asking Avraham to perform an act which is at odds with everything that Avraham has been teaching to the world around him about G-d. How could he himself even have understood it? There are more interpretations of the Akeida than we can tackle in the course of this discussion (my mother has actually been taking a weekly class on this single topic for over a year).

On the other hand, the Akeida was not written in the Torah just to puzzle us - there needs to be something we can take out of it. As much as our song Hineini is about the story of the Akeida itself, it is also about what it means to us on our level. We in the band are a bunch of modern Jewish guys in our early to mid twenties in the year 2005 in NYC, so we may not be thinking about the Akeida in the same specific way that Avraham did, but on our level, it can be a lofty thing nonetheless. On the simplest level, the Akeida is about sacrifice of any kind. We look to Avraham as the ideal in the sense that he was willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of his G-d. So we're not there (yet). But there's a lot of room to be challenged even before we're at that level. Do we dedicate ourselves to G-d in the daily and mundane things that we do? I've heard it said that it's easier to die as a Jew than to live as a Jew. I know that's a controversial thing to be saying, but if you think of all that's demanded of us as Jews, it might not be far from the truth. I wonder if it isn't indeed easier to hold my breath, count to three, and take a bullet al pi kiddush Hashem than to live day in and day out with a constant devotion and awareness of G-d and what He demands of me as a Torah observant Jew. I pray to G-d that I or any of us should never have to be in a position to find out the answer, but I wonder anyway. To me, that's what the Akeida is saying. On whatever level, are you willing to sacrifice and and live up to the demands of being a Jew? That message works for both the lofty and the mundane. Also, we all have our own "only sons," even those of us who do not yet have children. There are so many things in our lives that are of prime importance - where do they fit in the scheme of our priorities? These are some very hard questions, and it might be just as difficult for us to say "Hineini" in these cases as it was for Avraham to say Hineini in his case. At the end of the day, we look to Avraham to understand that we need to strive to put our relationship with G-d before everything else. Much easier said than done (or understood).

In general, this type of meaning is in line with what our band is about. We're just trying to look at these words and episodes that are so sacred and far off sometimes and understand them in a way that has relevance for people. I hope that we at least succeeded in that. That being said, you can speak to the four of us and get four different interpretations of what this song might mean!

Again, thanks to everyone who has shared their opinions - you've added so much to our experience of making music. I'd be intersted to hear what you all think, either on this thread or at avi@bluefringe.com.

-Avi from Blue Fringe

Sun Oct 02, 03:23:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Unknown said...

This post has been included in Haveil Havalim #39, hosted by SerandEz - take a few minutes and check what it says. Shana Tova!

Mon Oct 03, 02:29:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Rahel Jaskow said...

I recognize that Avraham's reality was much different from ours. And I'm familiar with the opinion that he actually failed the test. Yet whatever his situation may have been, I'm with you, Shira, although I'm not a parent at this time: No. A thousand times no.

Mon Oct 03, 10:25:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Rahel, looking at the Akedah through the prism of "Avraham's reality" is the only way I, personally, can deal with this. To me, Elie's comment on Mirty's Sept. 29 post "Frozen in Heaven / The Akedah" on her blog (http://mirty12.blogspot.com/)makes sense: " . . . in the context of the time in which the Torah was first given, the astonishing aspect of the story is that God prevented the killing, not that he asked for it in the first place. It is only in relatively recent times that society in general has caught up with the Torah's abhorrence for child sacrifice . . . " Even Rachel's notion, expressed in her 2nd-day RH sermon from last year (see http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/) that Avraham was stalling for time doesn't really address the question of why Hashem made the request in the first place, though it does give Avraham credit for not being sure that this was really the right thing to do.

Avi said, "I've heard it said that it's easier to die as a Jew than to live as a Jew. I know that's a controversial thing to be saying, but if you think of all that's demanded of us as Jews, it might not be far from the truth. . . . To me, that's what the Akeida is saying. On whatever level, are you willing to sacrifice and live up to the demands of being a Jew?" Even those of us Jews who are not of the Torah community must make choices constantly. Do we davven or do we sleep late? If we eat in non-kosher restaurants, where do we draw the line at what we'll eat? (Some of us don't eat non-kosher meat, while others observe what's been called "Biblical kashrut," avoiding pig's meat and shellfish because they're specifcally forbidden in the Torah/Bible, but not worrying about the later Rabbinic addition of kosher slaughter.) Do we "make Shabbos" at home on Friday night, or do we go to a movie? Do we go to synagogue on a Yom Tov (holiday) morning, or do we go straight to work? And it's not just a question of "schver tsu zein a Yid," it's *hard* to be a Jew, it's also *expensive.* Are we willing to pay for kosher meat? For a lulav and etrog? For tefillin? For synagogue membership? For a Jewish education for our kid(s), if we have any? These sacrifices certainly don't match the one that Avraham almost made, but each of us has to sacrifice something to be a part of the Jewish community. As Avi was saying, are we willing to say "Hineni" to *that,* at least?

Mon Oct 03, 12:31:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Stacey said...

Shira, I read your post via Trep's mention of it. I identify so strongly with what you have said. And I agree with you. When I think of what was asked of Isaac, it flat-out angers me (to be honest).

The questions you mull over are good ones (esp. the one pertaining to Sodom and Gemorrah).

And answers such as: "that is why Hashem would never ask it of us!! Hashem only tests a person on his level" ring hollow for me because there is not a one of us who can speak for G-d or tell me what G-d would/wouldn't do.

Mon Oct 03, 02:40:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Wow! Stacey, thanks so much for joining the discussion and for giving me the heads-up to check out Trep's blog.

Thanks so much, Ezzie, for including this post in your Havel Havalim post "round-up" at SerandEz.

This discussion has gone to so many other blogs (Paul at Bloghead, too) that I'll have to respond after Rosh Hashanah or I'll never get dinner made. :)

Shanah tovah to all.

Mon Oct 03, 03:35:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Taking another look at Rachel Barenblat's Sept. 30 post, "Mothers and sons," at http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/, I found this interesting modern midrashic interpretation:

"I'm fascinated by how the two days' assigned Torah readings speak to one another. On the first day, we read of Isaac's birth and Ishmael's near-death (averted by God's hand); on the second day, Isaac's near-death (again averted by God). Sarah, who plays such a major role in the reading for day one, is absent in what we read on day two. Could it be that Sarah's momentary lapse of compassion -- casting out her handmaiden, and the son she had intended to rear as her own, to die in the desert -- somehow disempowered her from making life-or-death decisions about her own child? Did her cruelty to Ishmael and Hagar karmically disqualify her from being able to protect Isaac?"

And, speaking of the juxtaposition of the first and second day's readings, Paul, at Bloghead (http://bloghd.blogspot.com/),
responds to my post (and Mirty's Sept. 29 post, "Frozen in Heaven / The Akedah," at http://mirty12.blogspot.com/) with a question of his own (see his Friday, September 30, 2005 post, "An akeida thought for Rosh Hashanah"):

"Second thought, to which I have no answer:


On Rosh Hashanah, we read of the two sons of Abraham, one of whom is exiled into the desert, and the other of whom is taken for sacrifice Har haMoriah (= the Bet Hamikdash).
On Yom Hakippurim, we read of the two goats, one of whom is exiled into the desert, and the other of whom is taken for sacrifice in the Bet Hamikdash (= Har haMoriah).
--- what is the meaning of this profound parallel?

Thu Oct 06, 12:27:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Here's part of my response to Paul Shaviv's post on Bloghead:

"Hashem's response is interesting: On the one hand, He rewards Avraham for his obedience with a promise of numerous descendants. On the other hand, as another commenter on another blog pointed out, He never speaks directly to Avraham again. Maybe even *Hashem* is ambivalent as to whether Avraham passed the test by obeying or failed the test by not posing the same argument he'd posed concerning the destruction of Tz'dom and Amorah--HaShofet kol ha-aretz lo yaaseh mishpat--will the Judge of all the earth not do justice? (Parshat Vayera, Genesis chapter 18, verse 25). Frankly, that failure on the part of Avraham Avinu freaks me out even more than the notion that the Ayil l'azazel (the goat that was sent to the wilderness) might represent Yishmael while the Ayil l'olah, the goat for sacrifice, might represent Yitzchak. How can a person defend a city of strangers and have not a word to say in defense of his own flesh and blood?"

Thu Oct 06, 07:11:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.
As a mother I know that my answer would be a resounding NO. However, over the centuries Jews have been raising children in a world where they would be hated and persecuted for the mere act of faith. And in a small way, that is a 'yes' to the question 'would you, could you make the sacrifice?' There were imes in our collective history when merely accepting your religion was reason to burn you at the stake, along with your extended family. In those times, would we walk away from it all and accept a new religion or would we risk the lives of our children?
That said, I think Avraham passed the test 'too well'. He still recieved his reward of many children etc. but with a loss of that direct contact with G-D that defined the most intimate divine/human relationship in the Torah. Perhaps if he had the same 'rachamim' for his son as for S'dom, and begged G-D to take him instead and had to be convinced first that the Akeidah was necessary before passing the test - the reward would have been complete.
Last (sorry for rambling) being close to G-D and being witness to miracles does not ensure faith at all. The generation of the Exodous from Egypt witnessed more miracles than any other and yet every small setback was a reason for them to stumble again. In fact, that is part of the explanation brought down as to why we no longer live in a time of direct observable miracles.
Thanks to Trep for pointing out that in those days child sacrifice was a more common event. I never really did understand where the whole concept suddenly came from.

Thu Oct 06, 01:39:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Chedva, you make two very good points, namely, that just by insisting on remaining Jewish, we risk "sacrificing" our children, and that the generation of Yitziat Mitzrayim/the Exodus from Egypt had little faith despite having witnessed many miracles. Thanks so much for adding your insights to this discussion.

Thu Oct 06, 08:17:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm gonna go out on a limb here: if interpretting the sacrifice as sacrifice of life (literally) then in israel today, every parent goes through their own akeida when the child hits 18... and each israeli steps into yitzchak's shoes and says "hineni" when they choose to serve.

Fri Oct 07, 01:03:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Noam S said...

I am coming to the party a little late, and all the comments have been very interesting. My wife made the following point:

Avraham has been chosen by God to be his "point man" or exemplar on earth, to go out and teach and be an example of what God wants. The episode of S'dom and Amorah, where Avraham negotiates with God, and uses the words "melech kol ha'aretz lo ya'aseh mishpat" (is it possible for the king of all not to do justice). It seems at the end of this conversation that Avraham is satisfied with God's level of compassion and justice. God has, so to speak, passed Avraham's test for being good and compassionate. Therefore, when it comes time for the Akedah, Avraham has accepted God and believes in God, no matter what is asked of him. I think treppenwitz has an excellent point in that it is easier to believe and follow God when it is clear as day that God exists and he talks to you.

God is showing Avraham(and us) what it means to believe absolutely and totally in God. As RYBS wrote, in explaining why it says "take your son, your only son, Isaac": God is telling Avraham don't think that this is going to be easy, that you will get another son in replacement, that the pain of the loss will fade, this is what it means to serve God with everything you have.

Now, dont get the idea that serving God has to be with sadness, total sacrifice, total abnegation of self, and misery. We believe God is good, merciful, and full of love for his creation, and does not cause us needless misery or suffering. However, unless you can realize that there is something greater than your worldly possessions, your life, or even, the life of your children, then you really dont have a belief in God. Or, the God of your belief is not all powerful, since by refusing you are implying that He made a mistake by asking you.

If I was in Avraham's shoes, would I have done it? IF I was absolutely sure it was God who was asking me, and there was absolutely no doubt about what he was asking, I would look him in the eye(as best as I could) and say " I really really hope you know what you are doing", and do it.

Fri Oct 07, 02:12:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anonymous and dilbert, your comments deserve more than a hasty reply on my way out the door, so I'll respond when we get back from our weekend in the Catskills.

Shabbat shalom to all.

To be continued.

Fri Oct 07, 03:29:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anonymous, you’re talking about my Israeli brother and ex-sister-in-law and their three children, my two Israeli nieces and nephew. And you’re right, heaven help us all.

dilbert said, “unless you can realize that there is something greater than your worldly possessions, your life, or even, the life of your children, then you really dont have a belief in God. Or, the God of your belief is not all powerful, since by refusing you are implying that He made a mistake by asking you.”

I agree—that my faith in G-d is not all powerful: Yes, I do believe that G-d made a mistake by asking Avraham to sacrifice his child.

That’s why I, personally, find a historical explanation the only one that I can accept. That Hashem might have ordered Avraham to sacrifice his child as a test to determine whether Avraham would be as obedient to Him as a pagan would have been to a pagan god—or, depending on one’s interpretation, that Avraham might have *thought* that that’s what Hashem had ordered him to do—makes sense to me. That this test should be considered by tradition to have been appropriate just because Hashem asked for it does not make sense to me. How can the Judge of all the earth do such an injustice as to ask any parent to choose between their love for Him and their love of their child?

Sun Oct 09, 09:15:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Noam S said...

Shira, I understand what you are saying, and on one level I agree. You ask how God could ask Avraham to choose between his son and God, you might as well ask why 30,000 people died in the recent earthquake, or why the starving children die in Africa, or, ultimately, why is there evil in this world? And God has already told us the answer: "lo machshevoti machshevotechem" My thoughts are not your thoughts. God has reasons that are not fathomable by us. We can think, rationalize, agonize, and we are supposed to do all those things. But, ultimately, we don't know and cant know in this life why things happen the way they do and why God does what He does. We are left with the choice of accepting or not accepting. Accepting doesn't mean agreeing with, it just means that we accept that a Greater Power who is all good and kindness is running things and we cant know what He/She knows, but we accept that it is ultimately for the good, though we may not see it that way through our limited vision. You can still argue, rail, be mad, angry and all those things, and it would not be human not too, but ultimately the only choice is acceptance or not. I choose to accept.

Mon Oct 10, 11:59:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Noam S said...

Addendum: In the Yom Kippur liturgy we read of the 10 martyrs, and during the torture/murder of one of them the angels object and ask God "is this the reward for studying Torah?" and His answer is basically "silence, I created the universe."

I guess the major issue with Akedat Yiztchak is that man is asked by God to do something that is morally wrong in man's eyes, as opposed to the problem of evil in the world, in which man watches things happening around him(or things are done to him, still a passive role); an active role in the percieved evil of the world, as opposed to a passive one. However, if one totally believes in God, and has a direct command from God that he is totally sure is from God and is totally sure what the command is, then one is obliged to follow it

Mon Oct 10, 03:24:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

What can I say, dilbert? I have trouble with both of the above. I can’t understand why Hashem would ask someone to do something that’s immoral even in *His* eyes—“You must not commit murder”—any more than I can understand why there’s suffering in the world.

“. . . ultimately the only choice is acceptance or not. I choose to accept.”

I don’t accept. But I’ll follow in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu anyway, and fight with the G-d I’m not sure I believe in to do justly, as Avraham taught us to expect of the Judge of all the earth.

Tue Oct 11, 02:06:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blue Fringe played "Hineni" live, for the first time yesterday. Guess where they debuted it? In Hevron, in front of Maarat HaMachpelah (the Cave of Patriarchs). Just WOW.

Fri Oct 21, 12:00:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Wow" is right! I'm not even sure I'd have the nerve to go to Hevron, at this point.

Sun Nov 06, 12:06:00 AM 2005  

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