Parshat Vayeira: A key lesson from Abraham and Isaac

Some of the lessons that we learned from the Akeidah of Isaac is Abraham’s loyalty to the Creator of all, the selflessness of his son to be sacrificed for their God, and what these represent in the ongoing relationship between Him and the children of Israel. Every day we remember them in the Jewish prayers and in the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as testimonies of Israel’s allegiance to recognize Him as their One and only God.

Reflecting deeper on the offering of Isaac by his father, one of the verses that describes it makes us contemplate on God as the owner and master of His creation.

“And Abraham said, ‘God will provide [lit. will see or will appear] for Himself the burnt offering, my son’. So they both went together.” (Genesis 22:8)

The mutual understanding between father and son about what they were about to do is confirmed by the conclusive statement that they both went together. The redundancy of “both” going “together”, reiterate this. Yet our reflection goes on what they were so much in agreement in regards of the offering that they were going to elevate.

Our sages call this action from Abraham as the last of the ten situations in which God tested his loyalty for Him. Some point out that the test seemed to be mainly for Isaac, considering that he was the one to be sacrificed, not his father. Furthermore, if Isaac had no objection to being tied up in order to be slaughtered as a burnt offering to their God, why Abraham was apparently so shocked and affected by bringing such unexpected sacrifice that was contrary to God’s promise to make him a great nation through the son that his wife Sarah miraculously gave birth in old age?

We find the answer in the last sentence of the verse that we pointed out. After three days of constant thinking and reflecting on God’s request from Abraham, Isaac’s asking for the sacrificial offering solved Abraham’s unsettling concern. They both came to the mutual understanding that God’s creation, including them, belongs to Him.

God owns not only our lives but our thoughts, ideas, dreams, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts. We exist by His will and for His will which we can’t fathom or grasp.

In this awareness we must wonder and discern God’s will for humankind in general and for the Jewish people in particular as the inheritors and grantors of His Torah that delineates such will. It also introduces goodness as the ruling principle destined to direct every aspect, facet, dimension and expression of live in this world.

Abraham and Isaac’s togetherness teach us the lesson that we don’t own anything, for we are born with nothing and we die with nothing except for the conscious or unconscious awareness that life is a gift of goodness for the sake of goodness, and nothing else. This also leads us to discern about what really matters in life when we struggle every moment to choose amid the conflicting interaction of good and evil, and do what is right.

Thus we learn from Abraham’s total awareness of his God by the way he called the place where the Akeidah occurred. Once we free ourselves from the materialistic fantasies and illusions that we fabricate in order to be gods of our individual imaginary domains, we come to the awareness that the relationship with our Creator is what matters the most.

Our sages ask who is rich, and reply that is the one who is happy with his lot. And, what is his lot? What he has or what he is? Better to answer both with the relationship that he has with his Creator, as Abraham and Isaac would have replied.

“And Abraham called the name of that place ‘the Lord shall appear’, as it is said to this day, ‘in the mount where the Lord is seen’.” (22:14)

As we learn in the Torah God’s ways and attributes as the means with which He relates to His creation, we also learn that these are also the means He wants us to relate to Him, and with each other in the world. The rest is commentary. Let’s keep learning.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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