Rashi: After these things: Some of our Sages say (Sanh. 89b) [that this happened]: after the words [translating “devarim” as “words”] of Satan, who was accusing and saying, “Of every feast that Abraham made, he did not sacrifice before You one bull or one ram!” He [God] said to him, “Does he do anything but for his son? Yet, if I were to say to him, ‘Sacrifice him before Me,’ he would not withhold [him].”
Zohar I:10b-11a – tr. D. Matt, Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, pp. 69-71
“Rabbi Shimon opened and said: ‘Anyone who rejoices on the festivals and does not give the Blessed Holy One His portion, that stingy one with the evil eye, Satan, Archenemy, accuses him, removes him from the world. […]
What is the portion of the Blessed Holy One? To gladden the poor as best as one can. For on these days the Blessed Holy One comes to observe His broken vessels. He enters from above and if He sees that they have nothing to celebrate He cries over them. Then He ascends to destroy the world! […]
Who in the world was greater than Abraham?He was kindhearted to all creatures. One day he prepared a feast, as it is written: ‘The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feats on the day that Isaac was weaned.’ (Gen. 21:8)To this feast Abraham invited all the great people of his time. […]
When Abraham welcomed all those great people, the Accuser [Satan]descended and stood at the door disguised as a poor man. But no one noticed him.
Abraham was serving the kings and celebrities (ravravin). Sarah was nursing all their children, because no one believed she had given birth; they said, ‘It is a foundling from the street!’ So Sarah took their children and nursed them in front of everyone […]And meanwhile the Accuser was still at the door. […]
The Accuser rose to face the Blessed Holy One. He said: ‘Master of the world! You call Abraham ‘My beloved”? (Isa. 41:8) He held a feast and gave nothing to me and nothing to the poor. […] To You he didn't offer even a single dove!! [The Blessed Holy One replied, 'Who in the world is like Abraham?"
But he held his ground and ruined all that joy, and the Blessed Holy One commanded that Isaac be brought as an offering […]
All that suffering he brought about because he gave nothing to the poor!”
Sefer Ha-Zohar (The Book of Radiance) is a mystical Torah commentary written in Aramaic. It comprises multiple volumes totaling over 1,000 pages. Scholars believe it was written by Moses de Leon, in 13th century Spain.
Rashi: your son: He [Abraham] said to Him,“ I have two sons.” He [God] said to him,“ Your only one.” He said to Him,“ This one is the only son of his mother, and that one is the only son of his mother.” He said to him,“ Whom you love.” He said to Him,“ I love them both.” He said to him,“ Isaac.” Now why did He not disclose this to him at the beginning? In order not to confuse him suddenly, lest his mind become distracted and bewildered, and also to endear the commandment to him and to reward him for each and every expression. — [from Sanh. 89b, Gen. Rabbah 39:9, 55:7]
1. What is the difference in the divine voice Abraham hears at the beginning of the episode and towards the end? Describe each.
2. Why do you think an angel of God stops Abraham from doing what God has commanded Abraham to do?
3. Why a ram? Why caught in the thicket?
4. For what is Abraham praised by God?
5. Who does Abraham leave the place (hamakom) with? Who is missing?
A poem, on being caught in the thicket.
The ram’s horn is silent at first, as is the ram.
Caught in the thicket,
Waiting for Abraham to lift his head and see,
It appears at the last moment,
Out of nowhere,
When it’s almost too late.
Of course, it was there all along.
Since twilight, on the eve of the first Shabbat, we are told.
It was there before darkness fell.
We barely knew what darkness was then.
It was there all along.
Waiting for us to open our eyes.
Waiting for us to see another way.
It’s not just our stubbornness that blinds us.
Sometimes it’s the commanding voice of faith.
Sometimes it’s the commanding voice of despair.
And sometimes it’s the thicket itself.
The thorny, tangled overgrowth of our lives.
It’s not that we’re blind,
We’re just busy.
Schlepping the wood,
Tending the fire,
Building the altar,
Trying to quiet the children,
Trying to answer their questions,
Even though God knows
We can’t answer our own.
Rabbi Sharon Cohen-Anisfeld
Questions from Rabbi Anisfeld: