Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Yitzchak, Yishmael and the Roots of the Abraham Accords (Parshat Vayera)

TRANSCRIPT

High-profile normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Serious reports about dramatic developments in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and Oman.

What is going on in the Middle East?!

After years of underground contacts, relationships are emerging in full view of the entire world between the descendants of Yitzchak and descendants of Yishmael – all of us the grandchildren of Avraham, Av Hamon Goyim, the “father of many nations”

This breathtaking confluence of events certainly has far-reaching political ramifications, but I would like to highlight what I see as a much more significant aspect of it: the glimpse that this week’s parsha, Vayera, provides into this potential rapprochement between the children of Avraham after millennia of enmity.

The parsha contains some truly fascinating parallel narratives in the lives of Yitzchak and Yishmael as they relate to their father, Avraham.

Professor Uriel Simon, world renowned Torah scholar and former long-time head of the Bible Department at Bar Ilan University, reflects on the Torah’s juxtaposition of the two sons’ sacrificial experiences: Geirush Yishmael – the Expulsion of Ishmael – and Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac.

The two events’ similarities are alluded to in their parallel language and potential consequences:

  1. God specifically directs Avraham to carry out both acts.
  2. In both instances, Avraham wakes up early in the morning to escort them.
  3. There is a foreshadowing to the probable death of his sons.
  4. The rescue of the sons comes in the flash of a moment by an angel, an emissary of God.
  5. In the aftermath of these traumatic events, God promises Avraham that both Yishmael and Yitzchak will become great nations.
  6. And inevitably, the trauma that each son experienced deeply affected their respective relationships with their father.

But when Avraham passes away, both Yitzchak and Yishmael summon the inner strength to come together to bury him.

Similarly, in light of the recent happenings in the Middle East, we are now witnessing for the first time in this region a growing formal recognition of the relationship between descendants of Yishmael and the descendants of Yitzchak, aptly named the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.

B’ezrat Hashem – Inshallah – may we merit to live in a time in which the sacrifices of Avraham’s children – the descendants of Yitzchak and the descendants of Yishmael – can be overcome, as their namesakes did.

Perhaps together, we can help usher in the final redemption process, a process that begins in Parshat Vayera.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 27 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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