Learning how to believe from The Binding of Isaac

"Abraham and Isaac before the Sacrifice", Jan Victors, 1644

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayeira, features one of the most well-know stories in the Torah, the Binding of Isaac. This tale often leads readers to ask themselves: “What would I do if I were in Abraham’s position, and G-d asked me to sacrifice my only son? Would I have ascended Mt. Moriah? And how does the relationship between Isaac and his father lead to him laying down on the altar willingly?”

Maimonidies, in his Guide to the Perplexed, explains that Abraham doesn’t bring Isaac up the mountain immediately after being told to do so, but considers the request first. The Torah states: “On the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes, and saw the place from afar”. Why did it take him so long to reach the base of the mountain? Rashi answers: “So that it would not be said [about Abraham] that he he was shocked, suddenly provoked, and driven out of his mind, and that if he had time to consider, he would not have acted”. Abraham hesitated so that he could show onlookers (and possibly himself and G-d) that he wasn’t acting out of terror or shock. Maimonidies continues this train of though, saying that Abraham acted not out of terror, but out of love and fear of G-d. Therefore, the angel at the top of the mountain says to him “Now I know you are fearful of G-d, and didn’t withhold you son from me”, or as Maimonidies explains, “Through this act, which gives cause to others to sea you as “G-d-fearing”, all people shall know the limits of the fear of G-d”.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin writes, in “Or Torah”: “Abraham was the first Jew; while Isaac was the first who followed G-d until death not because of a direct commandment from Him, but because he believed whole-heartedly in what was passed on to him”. What characterizes the relationship between the Jewish People and Hashem is the same thing that characterized the relationship between Abraham, Isaac and Hashem: a combination of love and fear of G-d, and full faith in Him and His commandments.

We can see that one of the main issues in this story turns into our biggest takeaway: How we can fear and love G-d in a way that is genuine, unique, and beautiful. Instead of rushing headfirst into decisions, we are encouraged to follow Abraham’s example and to be hesitant. Isaac teaches us to trust the knowledge we receive from our elders, and not to be afraid to test the boundaries of our faith. These attributes must characterize our relatioship to G-d if we mean to achieve the spiritual harmony possessed by our forefathers. Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Eytan is a 18 year old Oleh from California, currently residing in Ra'anana and studying at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa. He can best be reached via Facebook Messenger.
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