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The Ethics of Binding  Isaac

11/13/2019 02:32:25 PM


Rabbi Brent Spodek

The binding of Isaac is, by far, one of the most challenging sections of the Torah to read and embrace. How can we possibly take seriously, let alone seek after, a Divinity which commands Abraham to “Take your son… and bring him up there as an offering…”’ (Genesis 22:2)

Soren Kierkegaard, the great existentialist philosopher, claims that the lunacy of the demand points to the essence of the Divine test and is the reason why Abraham emerges as the supreme Prince of Faith - God expects of his most trustworthy servant to still the ethical voice of his conscience. Bu this understanding, we are to hearken to the word of God not because it is good, but rather because it was given by God!  

Nonsense. There can be no path towards the Source of All Life which mandates murder, certainly of one's own child. There is no virtue more precious than life itself. 

The 13th Century Sage Rav Yosef ibn Kaspi suggests a very different approach: the real test was whether Abraham could listen to the second “voice” of the angel, which said: “Do not cast your hand upon the lad and do not do anything to him”’ This is a religious test of a very different type - the goal is not to submit, but to think - and to act with conscience. 

The world is full of two-bit religious lunatics, who insist that their understanding of the Divine - and only their understanding of the Divine - is true and accurate. All others are wrong, if not worse. 

In a world wracked by violence which claims to be religious, it is only the person who can see the absolute value - the very face of God - in every human being, who is truly God fearing.


Tue, August 11 2020 21 Av 5780