New Year--Second Day
. . . And God blinked.
Judaism's Cuban Missile Crisis.

1 October 2008

The Akeidah.

Silence..

God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham says nothing.

He says nothing to Sarah.

He does not tell Isaac why they are going to Moriah.

He does not tell the two servants what he was commanded to do.

Silence.

Had anyone spoken up, it never would have happened.

Lippman Bodoff is a retired corporation lawyer, who has spent the last 20 years as a student and editor. He wrote
The Binding of Isaac, Religous Murder, & Kabbalah (Devora Publishing, Jerusalem/New York, 2005).

He offers the theory that not only did God test Abraham, but Abraham tested God

Abraham was faced with a dilemna. Should he disobey God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? Should he violate God’s law and commit murder?

Abraham tested God as to what kind of covenant and what kind of religion he was being asked to join.

Was a Jew required to follow heavenly voices to any length?

Was God subject to the requirements of justice and righteousness?

Abraham put God to the test. Abraham practices brinksmanship. I liken it to the Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy facing down Khrushchev. Abraham facing down God.

Without disobeying, Abraham stalls for time. He resists through delay. He takes measured steps to the Akeidah. At each step Abraham delays the confrontation, but raises the pressure on God. At each step Abraham waits for God to change God’s mind.

Abraham gets up.

He saddles his donkey.

He instructs his two servants.

He chops the wood.

He sets off on his journey.

After three days they arrive at Moriah.

Abraham gets off his donkey.

He tells his servants to wait.

He and Isaac walk--not run--up the mountain.

Abraham and Isaac delay by talking.

Abraham prepares the alter.

Finally, Abraham takes the knife.

He raises up his arm.

It is eyeball to eyeball. Abraham challenging God. God challenging Abraham. Abraham and God are at the brink. God blinked.

At each step Abraham gave God the chance to say that God does not want Abraham to murder, to commit immoral acts in God’s name.

God passed Abraham’s test.

At the same time, God tested Abraham. God wanted to see if Abraham would be faithful to God’s moral law, even when commanded to violate it.

The Akeidah demonstrates the principle of Shmirat Halashon--restraint of speech.

The Chofetz Chaim was the authority on
LaShon Hara---evil speech. He lived in Belarus and died in 1933.

He wrote that the ability to restrain oneself from speaking when the situation warrants silence is precious. With the quality of silence, a person is protected from the many sins which are related to speech. Without it, it is exceedingly difficult to refrain from verbal transgression.

The person who restrains oneself from speaking the forbidden, merits the hidden light which was stored away for the righteous at the time of Creation. (Summarized from
Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson a Day, by Israel Meir, Shimon Finkelman and Yitzchak Berkowitz, Mesorah Publications, Ltd., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1995).

Through silence at the Akeidah, Abraham proved his righteousness. Abraham used silence to cause God to blink.

Let us gain the wisdom to restrain our speech so we can advance morality and combat evil.