But Not Together

December 2, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And it happened after these events, and God tested Abraham …  And he said: “Take, please, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac.  And get going to the land of the Moriyah, and bring him up there as a burnt offering on one of the hills …”  (Genesis 22:1-2)

Abraham almost does it.  Isaac is tied up on top of the stacked wood, and Abraham takes the knife in his hand before he hears the divine voice telling him to desist.

I spent four days writing about four possible tests God might have in mind, and whether Abraham passes or fails each version.  Whatever God wants to find out about Abraham, there is no doubt that slaughtering Isaac would be morally wrong.

Today I am writing one more essay for this chapter on the story of the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac, in the Torah portion Vayeira.  How can Abraham and Isaac reconcile after the near-sacrifice?  The Torah says twice that they walk up the hill yachdav (יַחְדָּו), together.  But  Abraham walks down alone.  (Genesis 22:6, 22:8, and 22:19)

I love writing this book on moral psychology is Genesis, but I have fallen several Torah portions behind the Jewish cycle of Torah readings.  This week we are reading Vayishlach, in which Jacob and Esau meet again, 20 years after Jacob cheated his brother Esau on his blessing and Esau vowed to kill him.  After 20 years apart, the twin brothers do reconcile–mostly.  You can read about it in the blog post I wrote in 2015: Vayishlach: A Partial Reconciliation.

The reconciliation between the two brothers is only partial because after they have embraced one another and shed tears, Esau suggests that they travel together.  (Genesis 33:12)  Jacob gives him an excuse, and heads in a different direction.

When someone has wronged you, togetherness can be even harder than forgiveness.

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