And So We Readby Rabbi Bruce E. Kahn, D.D.
Over the years, I have received more complaints from moms about this story of the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham than any other Torah story. Again and again many of you asked me to read some other verses instead, especially on the High Holy Days. I understand such opposition. I only wish enough of the world understood the passage of the binding of Isaac well enough to warrant its deletion from our service.
Many times I have heard this story referred to incorrectly as the sacrifice of Isaac. But Isaac is not sacrificed. That is the point! That is the point! And it is the point that the world has yet to grasp and accept.
We followers of the Hebrew faith, that eventually became Judaism, are not, are not, are not to sacrifice our young. This story would have us depart from the prevailing custom of sacrificing one’s children and believing that such unholy sacrifices are ordained by God.
We don’t offer such sacrifices! We were supposed to learn that lesson thousands of years ago. Yet here we are as though this story and its teaching had never before seen the light of day. We don’t grasp the point. See the examples: Wrongly waged war, the national debt, despoliation of the land, water and air, the teaching of bigotry and hate, the blossoming of gangs, apathy in the face of injustice, intentionally refraining from building levees to withstand category five hurricanes that are certain to strike. We also don’t deal very wisely with the plague of illicit drug use, or tobacco, or a host of other afflictions that take our children from us. Look at how many little ones still die of malnutrition and other preventable diseases the world over. There is enough food and medicine to keep them alive. We only lack the will. After all this time we just don’t yet understand the story of the Akedah.
So it must not yet be deleted from our Holy Day service. It must be studied and considered in the hope that it will yet be grasped and its lesson implemented. The yamim noraim, a time of confession, repentance, renewal, the celebration of creation and life and family and faith are just the right days on which to learn and accept the point of the Akedah. We are not there yet. We are not there. We are still binding our children for sacrifice. Our children are too precious to be offered in sacrifice. Our God does not want us to sacrifice them. We were supposed to stop it so long ago. We just don’t get it yet. We just don’t get it. And so we read……