Yossi Feintuch

Surviving Mt. Moriah and the October 7th massacre

When Abraham and Isaac leave home en route to Mt. Moriah, as we read last week in the Torah, they departed from Beersheba, for this is where Abraham and his two accompanying ‘’young men’’ were heading back to in the aftermath of the Binding of Isaac saga.  After Sara’s sudden death (though she was 127 years old) – hence, Hayei Sarah/The Life of Sara, this week’s Torah portion — Abraham hastens to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Abraham’s servant chooses Rebecca and she is agreeable to become Isaac’s life partner (without even seeing a photo of his, let alone seeing him at least once and exchange a word with him…)

When Rebecca’s bridal caravan departs from her home in Aram Naharaim (the City of Nahor) to join her husband to be in Canaan, it does not head to Beersheba, where Abraham and Sara dwelled (before Sara relocated herself to Qiryat Arba, where she would soon die). Indeed, Rebecca’s bridal convoy heads to Beer La-Hai, for ‘’Isaac dwelled by Beer La-Hai-roi’’ (The well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me), in ‘’the land of the south’’; yet, not with his father in Beersheba. Isaac, to be sure, did not join his father in the aftermath of his near-sacrifice. What particularly is disheartening is that Abraham does not even try to talk to his son after the angel stayed his hand mid-air en route to slitter his son’s throat.

Even after he slew an unfortunate ram that was caught in a bush nearby in lieu of his son – God never asked him to do that nor acknowledged the uncalled-for-offering — Abraham keeps his silence and shows no emotions at all, let alone a cry of relief, if not for joy that Isaac will live after all, followed by the like of:  ‘’Itzhak, time to go home, my beloved son’’.  And he just leaves Isaac behind to untie himself and to struggle with his demons that the aborted slaughter must have left him with.

A survivor of one of the brutally assaulted settlements along the Gaza border on October 7 which had turned that day from green to black told a radio interviewer: ‘’This is no longer my home. I died and was reborn on that day anew, as a different person’’. Another young surviving family from the same devastated Kibbutz has already immigrated to the U.S. The massacre ‘’has broken us to pieces. We are not the same thing; our marital partnership is not the same thing, the children are not the same thing.’’

As I was hearing these jaw-dropping words I could not but think of the traumatized Isaac upon seeing his father ready to slay him. Didn’t he go promptly into a similar mind-set? No wonder that the Torah records no further exchange of words between father and son, even as the former believed that it was incumbent on him – unlike his own experience when he himself took Sarai for his wife – to arrange a marriage for his son Isaac for otherwise Isaac might not venture for himself and stay a bachelor.

Isaac on his part after his initial emergence from the shock that overwhelmed him up there on the slaughter-site that his father built, could not join his father to a home that was no longer his. And just like that survivor of the Hamas atrocious pogrom who feels that ‘’we were abandoned to die’’, Isaac must have felt the same after his father abandoned him again making no (recorded) attempt to bring him back home, leaving him alone there, as he journeyed back to Beersheba with the two young men who had accompanied him (and Isaac) on the road to Mt. Moriah.

And now we have a better understanding why Rebecca is heading to Beer La-Hai-roi to meet and wed Isaac even as Abraham is not mentioned anywhere in the brief report about the nuptial event. Rather, what is mentioned is ‘’Sara’s tent’’ where an angel annunciated Isaac’s birth at the oaks-forested area near Hebron (Elonei Mamre).  Isaac regarded that tent as his inheritance from his mother and he actually weds Rebecca by bringing his bride into the tent that he now gifted to her; the tent that he had taken hold of from wherever it was last pitched, only to be re-pitched in his new domicile away from his father.

In a nutshell: The post-Mt. Moriah Isaac is a very much different person from what he was before his father attempted to sacrifice him to a God who did not even want the offering. Isaac’s effective new birth entailed his relocation to a new zip code, quite like what has transpired to be the case with some survivors of the horrific carnage on the Gaza border settlements on the 7th of October.

About the Author
Ordained a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1994; in 2019 this institution accorded me the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa. Following ordination I served congregations on the island of Curacao, in Columbia, MO. Currently serving a congregation in Bend, Or. I received academic degrees from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (B.A. in International Relations and History), New York University (M.A. in History), and Emory University (Ph.D. in U.S. History). I am the author of U.S. Policy on Jerusalem (Greenwood Press), and numerous articles on biblical themes in various print and digital publications. I have taught in several academic institutions, including Ben-Gurion University (Beersheba, Israel), and the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO). A native of Afula, Israel. A veteran of the IDF.
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