THE BINDING OF ISAAC ON THE ALTAR
THE tenth trial was (as follows): "And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham" (Gen. 22:1). He tried Abraham each time in order to know his heart, whether he would be able to persevere and keep all the commandments of the Torah or not, and whilst as yet the Torah had not been given, Abraham kept all the precepts of the Torah, as it is said, "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my Torah" (Gen. 26:5). And Ishmael went repeatedly from the wilderness to see || his father Abraham.
Rabbi Jehudah said: In that night was the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed unto him, and He said unto him: Abraham ! "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac" (Gen. 22:2). And Abraham, having pity upon Isaac, said before Him: Sovereign of all worlds ! Concerning which son dost Thou decree upon me? Is it concerning the son lacking circumcision, or the son born for circumcision? He answered him: "Thine only son." He rejoined: This one is the only son of his mother, and the other son is the only son of his mother. He said to him: "The one, whom thou lovest." He said to Him: Both of them do I love. He said to him: "Even Isaac."
"And offer him there for a burnt offering" (ibid.). He spake to Him: Sovereign of all worlds ! On which mountain hast Thou told me (to offer him)? (God) answered him: In every place where thou dost see My glory abiding and waiting for thee there, and saying, This is Mount Moriah; as it is said, "Upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (ibid.).
Abraham rose up early in the morning, and he took with him Ishmael, and Eliezer, and Isaac his son, and he saddled the ass. Upon this ass did Abraham ride. This was the ass, the offspring of that ass which was created during the twilight, as it is said, "And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass" (Gen. 22:8). The same ass was also ridden upon by Moses when he came to Egypt, as it is said, "And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon the ass" (Ex. 4:20). This || same ass will be ridden upon in the future by the Son of David, as it is said, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and saved; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9).
Isaac was thirty-seven years old when he went to Mount Moriah, and Ishmael was fifty years old. Contention arose between Eliezer and Ishmael. Ishmael said to Eliezer: Now that Abraham will offer Isaac his son for a burnt offering, kindled upon the altar, and I am his first-born son, I will inherit (the possessions of) Abraham. Eliezer replied to him, saying: He has already driven thee out like a woman divorced from her husband, and he has sent thee away to the wilderness, but I am his servant, serving him by day and by night, and I shall be the heir of Abraham. The Holy Spirit answered them, saying to them: Neither this one nor that one shall inherit.
On the third day they reached Zophim, and when they reached Zophim they saw the glory of the Shekhinah resting upon the top of the mountain, as it is said, "On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off" (Gen. 22:4). What did he see? (He saw) a pillar of fire standing from the earth to the heavens. Abraham understood that the lad had been accepted for the perfect burnt offering. He said to Ishmael and Eliezer: Do ye see anything upon one of those mountains? || They said to him: No. He considered them (as dull) as an ass. He told them: Since ye do not see anything, "Abide ye here with the ass" (Gen. 22:5), with such who are similar to the ass.
He took the wood and placed it upon the back of his son Isaac, and he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and they went both of them together. Isaac said to his father: O my father ! Behold the fire and the wood, where is the lamb for the burnt offering? He replied to him: My son ! Thou art the lamb for the burnt offering, as it is said, "And Abraham said, God will provide for himself the lamb" (Gen. 22:8).
Rabbi Simeon said: The Holy One, blessed be He, pointed out the altar with a finger to Abraham our father, and said to him: This is the altar. That was the altar whereon Cain and Abel sacrificed; it was the same altar whereon Noah and his sons sacrificed, as it is said, "And Abraham built the altar there" (Gen. 22:9). "And Abraham built an altar there" is not written here, but "And Abraham built the altar there." That was the altar whereon the first ones (of old) had sacrificed.
Isaac said to his father Abraham: O my father ! Bind for me my two hands, and my two feet, so that I do not curse thee; for instance, a word may issue from the mouth because of the violence and dread of death, and I shall be found to have slighted || the precept, "Honour thy father" (Ex. 20:12). He bound his two hands and his two feet, and bound him upon the top of the altar, and he strengthened his two arms and his two knees upon him, and put the fire and wood in order, and he stretched forth his hand and took the knife. Like a high priest he brought near his meal offering, and his drink offering; and the Holy One, blessed be He, was sitting and beholding the father binding with all (his) heart and the son bound with all (his) heart. And the ministering angels cried aloud and wept, as it is said, "Behold, the Erelim cry without; the angels of peace weep bitterly" (Isa. 33:7). The ministering angels said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of all the worlds ! Thou art called merciful and compassionate, whose mercy is upon all His works; have mercy upon Isaac, for he is a human being, and the son of a human being, and is bound before Thee like an animal. "O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast"; as it is said, "Thy righteousness is like the mighty mountains; thy judgments are like a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast" (Ps. 36:6).
Rabbi Jehudah said: When the blade touched his neck, the soul of Isaac fled and departed, (but) when he heard His voice from between the two Cherubim, saying (to Abraham), "Lay not thine hand upon the lad" (Gen. 22:12), his soul returned to his body, and (Abraham) set him free, and Isaac stood upon his feet. And Isaac knew that in this manner the dead in the future will be quickened. He opened (his mouth), and said: Blessed art thou, O Lord, who quickeneth the dead. ||
Rabbi Zechariah said: That ram, which was created at the twilight, ran and came to be offered up instead of Isaac, but Sammael was standing by, and distracting it, in order to annul the offering of our father Abraham. And it was caught by its two horns in the trees, as it is said, "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by its horns" (Gen. 22:13). What did that ram do? It put forth its leg and took hold of the coat of our father Abraham, and Abraham looked, saw the ram, and he went and set it free. He offered it up instead of Isaac his son, as it is said, "And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (ibid.).
Rabbi Berachiah said: The sweet savour (of the ram) ascended before the Holy One, blessed be He, as though it were the sweet savour of Isaac, and He swore that He would bless him in this world and in the world to come, as it is said, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing"; and it says, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed, as the stars of the heaven" (Gen. 22:16, 17). "That in blessing" (refers) to this world; "I will bless thee," in the world to come; and "I will greatly multiply thy seed," in the future that is to come.
Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa said: From that ram, which was created at the twilight, nothing came forth which was useless. The ashes of the ram were || the base which was upon the top of the inner altar. The sinews of the ram were the strings of the harp whereon David played. The ram's skin was the girdle (around) the loins of Elijah, may he be remembered for good, as it is said, "And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins" (2 Kings 1:8). The horn of the ram of the left side (was the one) wherein He blew upon Mount Sinai, as it is said, "And it shall come to pass, that when the ram's horn soundeth long" (Josh. 6:5). (The horn) of the right side, which is larger than that of the left, is destined in the future to be sounded in the world that is to come, as it is said, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great trumpet shall be blown" (Isa. 27:13); and it is said, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).
Rabbi Isaac said: Nothing has been created except by the merit of worship. Abraham returned from Mount Moriah only through the merit of worship, as it is said, "We will worship, and come again to you" (Gen. 22:5). The Temple was fashioned only through the merit of worship, as it is said, "Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship" (Ps. 99:5).