AVRAM, ISHMAEL, YITZAAK
Thursday June 28:
Abraham, who has appeared to abandon his son Ishmael to die of thirst, is now instructed to surrender his son Yitzaak. This is pretty traumatic stuff, associated with child sacrifice.
Muslims, as noted yesterday, connect Mecca and Kaabah, and end Ramadan with Eid al Fitr, then observe Eid al Adha, to celebrate this miraculous deliverance. The broad Islamic tradition varies in observation and interpretation, but generally, affirms that Ishmael was told of the proposed sacrifice, and agreed to submit before God relented.
In Jewish tradition, the festival is called Akedah. This biblical narrative of Isaac not knowing his father’s plan,but delivered by God’s intervention at the brink of execution, and provision of a ram in place of the son, is familiar to us. The broad Jewish tradition includes varying assessments of God’s intent, whether it was a test, what virtues are affirmed.
Christians tell the story in the shadow of the cross, the assertions that God’s own son was sacrificed. Hebrews pursues that reflection directly, and we join in the Muslim and Jewish ethical reflection of the implications of a call to submit.
Replay it a few times today, and wonder what it means about offering up your dearest. What surrenders are faithful, and what sacrifices offend our narcissistic age?
We’ll finish today’s chapter with the stuff you usually skip over, the toledot or begatitudes of Nahor. Can you see how the lineage of Rebekah back up in Haran is relevant to the toledot of the patriarchs? Can you see how it may not be a moral tale promoting incestuous marriages, but a way of describing the shared and separate roots of peoples?