- Abraham welcomes three visitors, who announce that Sarah will soon have a son. (18:1-15)
- Abraham argues with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. (18:16-33)
- Lot's home is attacked by the people of Sodom. Lot and his two daughters escape as the cities are being destroyed. Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt. (19:1-29)
- Lot impregnates his daughters, and they bear children who become the founders of the nations Moab and Ammon. (19:30-38)
- Abimelech, king of Gerar, takes Sarah as his wife after Abraham claims that she is his sister. (20:1-18)
- Isaac is born, circumcised, and weaned. Hagar and her son, Ishmael, are sent away; an angel saves their lives. (21:1-21)
- God tests Abraham, instructing him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. (22:1-19)
by Marci Goldstein
This D’var Torah is dedicated to my best friend Stacey Beth Miller to honor her memory for her birthday on November 13th. She would have been 48 years old. May Stacey’s memory be a blessing to all those who knew and loved her.
Seven years ago, my only daughter began to have movement issues that left her mobility challenged and ultimately led to her confinement to a wheelchair 90% of the time. The disorder, for which she was eventually diagnosed, has no known cure. My husband and I searched endlessly for treatments for her, to no avail. We looked to G-d to help guide us through the challenges we were suddenly facing.
Eventually a medical treatment became known to us that involved a great deal of risk, but ultimately was the only option left to get her mobility back so that she could lead a normal life. But how does a parent readily consent to have holes drilled in their daughter’s skull and have wires placed in her brain, even if by a renowned neurosurgeon? How do loving parents do this without fear and apprehension and a little guilt?
Vayeria, is Hebrew for “and He appeared,” and Genesis, Chapter 22: 1-19 recounts the event known as the Binding of Isaac, also known as “The Binding”, or “The Akedah”. In this very well-known account in the Torah, G-d asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. He said to him, “Abraham!”, and Abraham replied, “Here I am”. Then G-d said, “Please take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac- and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey without question. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place G-d had told him about. He said to his servants, “stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and then we will return to you”.
We know that the sacrifice of Isaac never materialized. “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and knife. So they went both of them together.” The angel of the Lord called out to him and instructed him not to lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him, “for now I know that you fear G-d, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
So many questions arise from this reading. Was this a test to see what Abraham would do? To see how devoted he was to G-d? Was this a punishment as suggested by some scholars for Abraham’s earlier mistreatment of Ishmael, his elder son? Was this perhaps a test of Isaac, as he would be the one giving up his life?
The consensus among Jewish scholars is G-d’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was indeed a test of Abraham’s loyalty and commitment to G-d, to see if he would actually take the life of his own son. Perhaps it is to be seen as a symbolic sacrifice only. As one asks, how could a loving G-d command such an abhorrent request upon a parent of a child? Surely G-d did not intend for Abraham to perform such a despicable and unfathomable act upon his son especially knowing that G-d had benevolently granted him to Abraham at the age of 100. What would be the purpose? Similarly, why did Isaac not question this act? Why did he go willingly with Abraham even though it would cost him his life, for he was not a small child and could certainly make an argument?
Abraham tells his servants to stay and he will return with Isaac, suggesting that he knew in his heart that he would be back with his son. Also, G-d had made a promise to Abraham to bless him and multiply his children through Isaac, which has us again wonder about G-d’s intent in asking him to sacrifice Isaac at the altar.
My husband and I sought answers from G-d for our daughter, and knew He would guide us in the right direction. So with fear, but with faith, we took our daughter to have this risky procedure. I am sure there were those that thought us foolish to take such a risk with our child, considering the disorder she suffered from was not life threatening. But in our hearts we believed in the Almighty, and knew that G-d would not lead us, or her, astray. Our trust in G-d helped us to do something that was one of the most difficult things a parent can do. Like Isaac, who went willingly with Abraham, our daughter took our hand, and together we went.