How Do You Know?
1 א

(א) וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ (ב) וַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּ֑ה וְהַעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה עַ֚ל אַחַ֣ד הֶֽהָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ (ג) וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אַבְרָהָ֜ם בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַֽיַּחֲבֹשׁ֙ אֶת־חֲמֹר֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֞ח אֶת־שְׁנֵ֤י נְעָרָיו֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וְאֵ֖ת יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיְבַקַּע֙ עֲצֵ֣י עֹלָ֔ה וַיָּ֣קָם וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃ (ד) בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֧ם אֶת־עֵינָ֛יו וַיַּ֥רְא אֶת־הַמָּק֖וֹם מֵרָחֹֽק׃ (ה) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶל־נְעָרָ֗יו שְׁבוּ־לָכֶ֥ם פֹּה֙ עִֽם־הַחֲמ֔וֹר וַאֲנִ֣י וְהַנַּ֔עַר נֵלְכָ֖ה עַד־כֹּ֑ה וְנִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃ (ו) וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֲצֵ֣י הָעֹלָ֗ה וַיָּ֙שֶׂם֙ עַל־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֣ח בְּיָד֔וֹ אֶת־הָאֵ֖שׁ וְאֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃ (ז) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יִצְחָ֜ק אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֤ם אָבִיו֙ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אָבִ֔י וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֶּ֣נִּֽי בְנִ֑י וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֤ה הָאֵשׁ֙ וְהָ֣עֵצִ֔ים וְאַיֵּ֥ה הַשֶּׂ֖ה לְעֹלָֽה׃ (ח) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֱלֹהִ֞ים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ הַשֶּׂ֛ה לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑י וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃ (ט) וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽמַר־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹהִים֒ וַיִּ֨בֶן שָׁ֤ם אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וַֽיַּעֲרֹ֖ךְ אֶת־הָעֵצִ֑ים וַֽיַּעֲקֹד֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ וַיָּ֤שֶׂם אֹתוֹ֙ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ מִמַּ֖עַל לָעֵצִֽים׃ (י) וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־יָד֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת לִשְׁחֹ֖ט אֶת־בְּנֽוֹ׃ (יא) וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהוָה֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ (יב) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָּה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃ (יג) וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ וְהִנֵּה־אַ֔יִל אַחַ֕ר נֶאֱחַ֥ז בַּסְּבַ֖ךְ בְּקַרְנָ֑יו וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אַבְרָהָם֙ וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־הָאַ֔יִל וַיַּעֲלֵ֥הוּ לְעֹלָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת בְּנֽוֹ׃ (יד) וַיִּקְרָ֧א אַבְרָהָ֛ם שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה יֵרָאֶֽה׃ (טו) וַיִּקְרָ֛א מַלְאַ֥ךְ יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם שֵׁנִ֖ית מִן־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ (טז) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בִּ֥י נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה כִּ֗י יַ֚עַן אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֖כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידֶֽךָ׃ (יז) כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם וְיִרַ֣שׁ זַרְעֲךָ֔ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר אֹיְבָֽיו׃ (יח) וְהִתְבָּרֲכ֣וּ בְזַרְעֲךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ עֵ֕קֶב אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ בְּקֹלִֽי׃ (יט) וַיָּ֤שָׁב אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶל־נְעָרָ֔יו וַיָּקֻ֛מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ יַחְדָּ֖ו אֶל־בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְרָהָ֖ם בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃ (פ)

(1) And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: ‘Abraham’; and he said: ‘Here am I.’ (2) And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’ (3) And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he cleaved the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. (4) On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. (5) And Abraham said unto his young men: ‘Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship, and come back to you.’ (6) And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife; and they went both of them together. (7) And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said: ‘My father.’ And he said: ‘Here am I, my son.’ And he said: ‘Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ (8) And Abraham said: ‘God will aprovide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together. (9) And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. (10) And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. (11) And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said: ‘Abraham, Abraham.’ And he said: ‘Here am I.’ (12) And he said: ‘Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.’ (13) And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son. (14) And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-jireh; as it is said to this day: ‘In the mount where the LORD is seen.’ (15) And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, (16) and said: ‘By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, (17) that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast hearkened to My voice.’ (19) So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer- sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.

2 ב

1. Summarize these verses

2. What jumps out at you? What issues do you have with this story?

3. How do you think each of the following were feeling as this story was unfolding: (a) God (b) Sarah (c) Isaac (d) Abraham's servants (e) Abraham

3 ג

(א) אחר הדברים האלה. יש מרבותינו אומרים אחר דבריו של שטן, שהיה מקטרג ואומר מכל סעודה שעשה אברהם לא הקריב לפניך פר אחד או איל אחד, אמר לו כלום עשה אלא בשביל בנו, אלו הייתי אומר לו זבח אותו לפני לא היה מעכב

ויש אומרים אחר דבריו של ישמעאל שהיה מתפאר על יצחק שמל בן שלש עשרה שנה ולא מחה, אמר לו יצחק באבר אחד אתה מיראני, אלו אמר לי הקדוש ברוך הוא זבח עצמך לפני לא הייתי מעכב:

(ב) הנני. כך היא עניתם של חסידים, לשון ענוה הוא ולשון זמון:

(1) There are some Sages who say [that this event occurred] “After the words of Satan” who said accusingly [to God], “From all the feasts that Avraham prepared, he did not offer as sacrifice to You a single bull or ram.” He [God] responded to him, “He does everything for the sake of his son. Yet, if I were to say to him, ‘Sacrifice him to Me,’ he would not refuse.”

There are those [other Sages] who say “After the words of Yishmael” who would boast to Yitzhak that he was circumcised when he was thirteen and did not resist. Yitzhak responded to him: “You try to intimidate me with one limb. If God would tell me, ‘Sacrifice yourself to Me,’ I would not refuse.”

(2) This is the response of the pious— an expression of humility and readiness.

4 ד

1. Re-Read Genesis 22:1

2.What is Rashi's question?

3. What is the difference between the two comments in (1)?

5 ה

(ב) את בנך. אמר לו שני בנים יש לי, אמר לו את יחידך, אמר לו זה יחיד לאמו וזה יחיד לאמו, אמר לו אשר אהבת, אמר לו שניהם אני אוהב, אמר לו את יצחק

ולמה לא גלה לו מתחלה, שלא לערבבו פתאום, ותזוח דעתו עליו ותטרף, וכדי לחבב עליו את המצוה ולתן לו שכר על כל דבור ודבור:

(2) He [Avraham] responded, “I have two sons.” He [God] said to him, “Your only one.” He responded, “This one is an only son to his mother and the other is an only son to his mother.” He [God] said to him, “Who you love.” “I love them both,” he [Avraham] answered. Then, He said, “Yitzhak!”

Why didn’t God reveal this from the beginning? So as not to confuse him suddenly, and he become bewildered and deranged. And, also, so that he value the mitzvah and he would get the reward for each and every expression.

6 ו

1. Re-Read Genesis 22:2

2.What is Rashi's question?

3. How would stage this interaction according to Rashi?

4. Read Source 4

5. How does Robert Alter understand Rashi?

7 ז

Robert Alter ~ Genesis: The Five Books of Moses -- page 108

The Hebrew syntactic chain is exquisitely forged to carry a dramatic burden, and the sundry attempts of English translators from the King James Version to the present to rearrange are misguided . The classical Midrash, followed by Rashi, beautifully catches the resonance of the order of terms... Although the human object of God's terrible imperative does not actually speak in the biblical text , the Midrashic dialogue demonstrates a fine responsiveness to how the tense stance of the addressee is intimated through the words of the addressee in a one-sided dialogue.

8 ח

(א) וישכם. נזדרז למצוה:

(ב) ויחבש. הוא בעצמו ולא צוה לאחד מעבדיו, שהאהבה מקלקלת השורה:

and arose early: He hastened to perform the commandment

and he saddled: He himself and he did not command one of his servants, because love causes a disregard for the standard [of dignified conduct]

9 ט

1. Re-Read Genesis 22:3

2. According to Rashi, did Abraham want to do this? Explain.

3. Do you agree or disagree with Rashi? Explain.

10 י

(א) וישכם, השכים לעשות רצון האל, ולא הודיע לשרה, אולי תעשה רעה לעצמה לאהבתה את יצחק.

(ב) ואת שני נעריו, הרגילים ללכת עמו לשמשו. ובדרש (פרד"א ל"א) אליעזר וישמעאל. ויבקע, לשום על החמור להוליך עמהם, וחשבו הנערים, כי כדי לבשלו בהם במקום שילינו עשה אולי לא ימצאו עצים.

(ג) אל המקום אשר אמר לו, ארץ המריה, כי ההר לא ידע עדיין:

(1) and arose early, he rose early to carry out G’d’s bidding without telling Sarah anything about it. He was afraid that she might do harm to herself out of her love for Yitzchok.

(2) two of his young men, the ones who usually accompanied him on any journey.

(3) to the place that I will say, to the land known as Moriah, seeing that G’d had not yet revealed to him on which mountain he was to offer Yitzchok as a burnt offering.

11 יא

1. According to Radak, did Abraham want to do this?

2. What is different about Radak's and Rashi's approach?

3. What question is Radak asking in the 3rd comment?

12 יב

(ב) וירא את המקום. ראה ענן קשור על ההר:

and saw the place: He saw a cloud attached to the mountain

13 יג

1. Re-Read Genesis 22:4

2. What question is Rashi asking on this verse?

3. How does he answer that question?

14 יד

(כג) וירא את המקום מרחוק, אמר ליה ליצחק רואה אתה מה שאני רואה, א"ל אני רואה הר נאה משובח וענן קשור עליו, אמר לנעריו רואין אתם כלום, אמרו לו אין אנו רואין אלא מדברות

and saw the place afar: He [Abraham] said to Isaac, 'Do you see what I see?' He answered him 'I see a beautiful praiseworthy mountain and a cloud attached to it.' He [Abraham] said to his attendants, 'Do you see anything?' They said, 'We see nothing but deserts!'

15 טו

1. Summarize what is happening in this Midrash

2. What do you notice about the terminology of this text? What could it be implying?

3. Why do Abraham & Isaac see something different from their servants?

16 טז

(א) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

(1) Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.

17 יז

(ב) וַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּ֑ה וְהַעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה עַ֚ל אַחַ֣ד הֶֽהָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃

(2) And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’

18 יח

1. Read each source closely. The first source is God's instruction to Abram to leave and go to the land of Canaan

2. What do you notice about each source? What do they have in common? What is different?

19 יט

Sacrifice by Reverend Lawrence Boadt ~ page 107-109 in "Talking about Genesis: A Resource Guide"

All biblical stories carry a wealth of meaning. But no story perhaps has so gripped the imagination of readers over the centuries as the terrifying proposition of Genesis 22 that God would ask a faithful person to kill his own son to prove his love for God. Certainly no other person in the book of Genesis ever encounters such a poignant and heart-wrenching experience as this.

Scholars and spiritual writers have often suggested that the story was originally intended to explain how God forbade the practice of human sacrifice or how the mountain to which Abraham went was the same Mount Moriah on which the Temple later stood. The text focuses on a specific challenge : God wanted to see if Abraham would obey no matter what in order to reconfirm the promises and blessings for his descendants. But many other ways of reading are possible.

Note its simple narrative technique. The story wastes no words on background or even on the feelings of those involved. It is one of the most tautly written and emotionally charged masterpieces in world literature precisely because of what it doesn't say. It begins starkly: God will test Abraham. No reason is given and Abraham never asks for one. In earlier chapters, Abraham has always followed wherever God led him. Even now he stands ready: Three times, he simply says, "Here I am" (verses 1, 7, 11). the plot itself emphasizes traveling distances and the objects needed for a sacrifice. Spaced between these are four brief conversations. With just a few words per stage, the drama moves relentlessly forward. The reader must fill in the gaps both from the imagination and from information provided in the previous chapter.

As a result, suspense is created at every stage in the action of the plot but also in the reader's mind: Why does God test humans? Since the story opens with the clear claim that God is testing Abraham, what will the drama say about a God who does this? If Abraham has already proved faithful time and again, does God never allow a final "okay" to our human obedience? Is there an insight here to the mystery of the relationship between God and humanity that always remains ambivalent and difficult to comprehend? We live with ignorance, imperfection, evil, and morality, while God has usually been viewed without any ofthese limitations. Does the encounter underscore the impossibility of understanding God? Does it suggest that God is not fully aware or in control of our destinies? If God is still unsure of Abraham, does this become a story of hope for all of us for whom God sometimes seems alien or distant or silent?

What about God as Good? God not only asks for a test, but that test involves a sacrifice. Is there any difference between "sacrificing" your son and "murdering" him? Are we asked to do evil to please God?

If it is only a test, we should not get trapped by feelings of horror and dismay that God would order such a cruel act. Like children asking for the story of Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, every reader knows the outcome of the test before actually reading it. Many children learned it-- one of the best-known biblical stories-- at their mother's knee. They saw it as a game-- it is a test, only a test, whose outcome is certain.

But what if it is not intended as a test? Perhaps Abraham has been too successful, perhaps his obedience is the obedience that Satan accused Job of having: he obeys because he always received blessing as a result. God does say at the climax in verse 12, "Now I know you fear God" (New Revised Standard Version) [ "for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man" lit. in Hebrew כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אַ֔תָּה] or perhaps better, "Now I know that you stand in awe of god." Is this really a story about the difficulty of human submission to God at all costs?

Is there a positive message of trust? Since the "test" revolves around the fundamental question of fidelity-- God's as well as Abraham's -- we can also read the bottom line of the drama, with its favorable outcome and its renewed promise of blessing, as an affirmation in the face of despair or disaster of God, who is both present to us and "provides" for us (verse 8) what we need. God's goodness is manifest in ways beyond our comprehension, but in this dilemma, nothing is more important than trusting and holding faith with the God we have come to know through revelation and experience, just as Abraham had in the preceding stories.

At the end, the sacrifice of Isaac is both a story of how faith works and how our experience copes with good and evil in life. We find both blessing and testing in our relationship with God, but the divine/human dialogue never ceases.