Unbinding Isaac

Don't miss an episode! Subscribe to the Madlik podcast: Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

and Join Madlik on Clubhouse every Thursday at 8:00pm Eastern so you can participate in our weekly live discussion of the Parsha

(א) וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹקִ֔ים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ (ב) וַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶ֨ךְ־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 וַיָּ֣קׇם וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹקִֽים׃ (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 אֱלֹקִ֞ים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ הַשֶּׂ֛ה לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑י וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃ (ט) וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽמַר־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹקִים֒ 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 ה' מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ (יב) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹקִים֙ 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 ה' ׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר ה' יֵרָאֶֽה׃ (טו) וַיִּקְרָ֛א מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה' אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם שֵׁנִ֖ית מִן־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ (טז) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בִּ֥י נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי נְאֻם־ה' 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) וְהִתְבָּרְכ֣וּ בְזַרְעֲךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ עֵ֕קֶב אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ בְּקֹלִֽי׃ (יט) וַיָּ֤שׇׁב אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶל־נְעָרָ֔יו וַיָּקֻ֛מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ יַחְדָּ֖ו אֶל־בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְרָהָ֖ם בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃ {פ}

(1) Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test, saying to him, “Abraham.” He answered, “Here I am.” (2) “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.” (3) So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which God had told him. (4) On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place from afar. (5) Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the ass. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you.” (6) Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. He himself took the firestone and the knife; and the two walked off together. (7) Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he answered, “Yes, my son.” And he said, “Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” (8) And Abraham said, “It is God who will see to the sheep for this burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together. (9) They arrived at the place of which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (10) And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son. (11) Then a messenger of ה' called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” (12) “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” (13) When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. (14) And Abraham named that site Adonai-yireh, whence the present saying, “On the mount of ה' there is vision.” (15) The messenger of ה' called to Abraham a second time from heaven, (16) and said, “By Myself I swear, ה' declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, (17) I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. (18) All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.” (19) Abraham then returned to his servants, and they departed together for Beer-sheba; and Abraham stayed in Beer-sheba.

We can use as an example the myth of the sacrifice that Abraham was going to make by butchering and burning his only son at God’s command (the poor child, without knowing it, even brought the wood for the fire). Abraham should have replied to this supposedly divine voice: “That I ought not to kill my good son is quite certain. But that you, this apparition, are God—of that I am not certain, and never can be, not even if this voice rings down to me from (visible) heaven.”

Emanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties (1798), trans. Mary J. Gregor and Robert Anchor, in Religion and Rational Theology, ed. and trans. Allen W. Wood and George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p 283

Soren Kierkegaard’s notion of “the teleological suspension of the ethical” and the "leap oof Faith"

The task God gave to Abraham was so horrifying that he could tell no one about it because no one would understand him. Ethics forbade it as well as aesthetics. Abraham became a knight of faith because he was willing to do what God asked of him. "He didn't trouble anyone with his suffering." Abraham was wrong as far as ethics is concerned but right as far the Absolute is concerned. Kierkegaard says, "wishing to be in the wrong is an expression of an infinite relationship, and wanting to be in the right, or finding it painful to be in the wrong, is an expression of a finite relationship! Hence, it is upbuilding always to be in the wrong-because only the infinite builds up; the finite does not!" What was the most Abraham could do in his relationship with God? Remain faithful to his commitment to God. He accomplished that by actually lifting the knife with the intention of carrying out his mission. In short, he acted. Here the intention was more important than the result. He had faith and had to go no further to please God. See

Faith is the highest passion in a person. There perhaps are many in every generation who do not come to faith, but no one goes further. Whether there are also many in our day who do not find it, I do not decide. I dare to refer only to myself, without concealing that he has a long way to go, without therefore wishing to deceive himself of what is great by making a trifle of it, a childhood disease one may wish to get over as soon as possible. But life has tasks enough also for the person who does not come to faith, and if he loves these honestly, his life will not be wasted, even if it is never comparable to the lives of those who perceived and grasped the highest. But the person who has come to faith (whether he is extraordinarily gifted or plain and simple does not matter) does not come to a standstill in faith. Indeed, he would be indignant if anyone said to him, just as the lover resents it if someone said that he came to a standstill in love; for, he would answer, I am by no means standing still. I have my whole life in it. Yet he does not go further, does not go on to something else, for when he finds this, then he has another explanation. Fear and Trembling p. 122-123

(לא) לֹא־תַעֲשֶׂ֣ה כֵ֔ן לַה' אֱלֹקֶ֑יךָ כִּי֩ כׇל־תּוֹעֲבַ֨ת ה' אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׂנֵ֗א עָשׂוּ֙ לֵאלֹ֣הֵיהֶ֔ם כִּ֣י גַ֤ם אֶת־בְּנֵיהֶם֙ וְאֶת־בְּנֹ֣תֵיהֶ֔ם יִשְׂרְפ֥וּ בָאֵ֖שׁ לֵאלֹֽהֵיהֶֽם׃
(31) You shall not act thus toward your God ה', for they perform for their gods every abhorrent act that ה' detests; they even offer up their sons and daughters in fire to their gods.
(א) אֵ֣ת כׇּל־הַדָּבָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם אֹת֥וֹ תִשְׁמְר֖וּ לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת לֹא־תֹסֵ֣ף עָלָ֔יו וְלֹ֥א תִגְרַ֖ע מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ {פ}
(ב) כִּֽי־יָק֤וּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ֙ נָבִ֔יא א֖וֹ חֹלֵ֣ם חֲל֑וֹם וְנָתַ֥ן אֵלֶ֛יךָ א֖וֹת א֥וֹ מוֹפֵֽת׃ (ג) וּבָ֤א הָאוֹת֙ וְהַמּוֹפֵ֔ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יךָ לֵאמֹ֑ר נֵֽלְכָ֞ה אַחֲרֵ֨י אֱלֹקִ֧ים אֲחֵרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתָּ֖ם וְנׇֽעׇבְדֵֽם׃ (ד) לֹ֣א תִשְׁמַ֗ע אֶל־דִּבְרֵי֙ הַנָּבִ֣יא הַה֔וּא א֛וֹ אֶל־חוֹלֵ֥ם הַחֲל֖וֹם הַה֑וּא כִּ֣י מְנַסֶּ֞ה ה' אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם לָדַ֗עַת הֲיִשְׁכֶ֤ם אֹֽהֲבִים֙ אֶת־ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֔ם בְּכׇל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכׇל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם׃ (ה) אַחֲרֵ֨י ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֛ם תֵּלֵ֖כוּ וְאֹת֣וֹ תִירָ֑אוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתָ֤יו תִּשְׁמֹ֙רוּ֙ וּבְקֹל֣וֹ תִשְׁמָ֔עוּ וְאֹת֥וֹ תַעֲבֹ֖דוּ וּב֥וֹ תִדְבָּקֽוּן׃
(1) Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it. (2) If there appears among you a prophet or a dream-diviner, who gives you a sign or a portent, (3) saying, “Let us follow and worship another god”—whom you have not experienced —even if the sign or portent named to you comes true, (4) do not heed the words of that prophet or that dream-diviner. For your God ה' is testing you to see whether you really love your God ה' with all your heart and soul. (5) It is your God ה' alone whom you should follow, whom you should revere, whose commandments you should observe, whose orders you should heed, whom you should worship, and to whom you should hold fast.
אחר הדברים האלה. יֵשׁ מֵרַבּוֹתֵינוּ אוֹמְרִים (סנהדרין פ"ט) אַחַר דְּבָרָיו שֶׁל שָׂטָן, שֶׁהָיָה מְקַטְרֵג וְאוֹמֵר מִכָּל סְעוּדָה שֶׁעָשָׂה אַבְרָהָם לֹא הִקְרִיב לְפָנֶיךָ פַּר אֶחָד אוֹ אַיִל אֶחָד; אָמַר לוֹ כְּלוּם עָשָׂה אֶלָּא בִּשְׁבִיל בְּנוֹ, אִלּוּ הָיִיתִי אוֹמֵר לוֹ זְבַח אוֹתוֹ לְפָנַי לֹא הָיָה מְעַכֵּב; וְיֵ"אֹ אַחַר דְּבָרָיו שֶׁל יִשְׁמָעֵאל, שֶׁהָיָה מִתְפָּאֵר עַל יִצְחָק שֶׁמָּל בֶּן י"ג שָׁנָה וְלֹא מִחָה, אָמַר לוֹ יִצְחָק בְּאֵבֶר א' אַתָּה מְיָרְאֵנִי? אִלּוּ אָמַר לִי הַקָּבָּ"ה זְבַח עַצְמְךָ לְפָנַי, לֹא הָיִיתִי מְעַכֵּב.

אחר הדברים האלה AFTER THESE THINGS [or, WORDS] —Some of our Rabbis say (Sanhedrin 89b) that it means after the words of Satan who denounced Abraham saying, “Of all the banquets which Abraham prepared not a single bullock nor a single ram did he bring as a sacrifice to You ’. God replied to him, “Does he do anything at all except for his son’s sake? Yet if I were to bid him, “Sacrifice him to Me’’, he would not refuse’’.

Others say that it means “after the words of Ishmael” who boasted to Isaac that he had been circumcised when he was thirteen years old without resisting. Isaac replied to him, “You think to intimidate me by mentioning the loss of one part of the body! If the Holy One, blessed be He, were to tell me, “Sacrifice yourself to Me” I would not refuse” (Sanhedrin 89b).

(ו) וַיְהִ֣י הַיּ֔וֹם וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י הָאֱלֹקִ֔ים לְהִתְיַצֵּ֖ב עַל־ה' וַיָּב֥וֹא גַֽם־הַשָּׂטָ֖ן בְּתוֹכָֽם׃ (ז) וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ה' אֶל־הַשָּׂטָ֖ן מֵאַ֣יִן תָּבֹ֑א וַיַּ֨עַן הַשָּׂטָ֤ן אֶת־ה' וַיֹּאמַ֔ר מִשּׁ֣וּט בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּמֵֽהִתְהַלֵּ֖ךְ בָּֽהּ׃ (ח) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה' אֶל־הַשָּׂטָ֔ן הֲשַׂ֥מְתָּ לִבְּךָ֖ עַל־עַבְדִּ֣י אִיּ֑וֹב כִּ֣י אֵ֤ין כָּמֹ֙הוּ֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֧ם וְיָשָׁ֛ר יְרֵ֥א אֱלֹקִ֖ים וְסָ֥ר מֵרָֽע׃

(6) One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD, and the Adversary (Satan) came along with them. (7) The LORD said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?” The Adversary answered the LORD, “I have been roaming all over the earth.” (8) The LORD said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!”

(א) ענין איוב הנפלא הוא מִכַּת מה שאנחנו בו – רצוני לומר: שהוא משל לבאר דעות בני אדם בהשגחה. וכבר ידעת באורם ומאמר קצתם: ״איוב לא היה ולא נברא אלא משל היה״. ואשר חשבו ש׳היה ונברא׳ ושהוא ענין שארע – לא ידעו לא זמן ולא מקום; אלא קצת ה׳חכמים׳ אמרו שהיה ׳בימי האבות׳, וקצתם אמרו שהיה ׳בימי משה׳, וקצתם אמרו שהיה ׳בימי דוד׳, וקצתם אמרו שהיה ׳מן עולי בבל׳ – וזה ממה שיחזק מאמר מי שאמר: ׳לא היה ולא נברא׳. סוף דבר, ׳בין היה בין לא היה׳ – בכמו ענינו הנמצא תמיד נבוכו כל המעיינים מבני אדם; עד שנאמר בידיעת האלוק ובהשגחתו מה שכבר זכרתי לך

(1) THE strange and wonderful Book of Job treats of the same subject as we are discussing; its basis is a fiction, conceived for the purpose of explaining the different opinions which people hold on Divine Providence. You know that some of our Sages clearly stated Job has never existed, and has never been created, and that he is a poetic fiction. Those who assume that he has existed, and that the book is historical, are unable to determine when and where Job lived. Some of our Sages say that he lived in the days of the Patriarchs; others hold that he was a contemporary of Moses; others place him in the days of David, and again others believe that he was one of those who returned from the Babylonian exile. This difference of opinion supports the assumption that he has never existed in reality. But whether he has existed or not, that which is related of him is an experience of frequent occurrence, is a source of perplexity to all thinkers, and has suggested the above-mentioned opinions on God’s Omniscience and Providence.

(טז) וַיָּקֻ֤מוּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיַּשְׁקִ֖פוּ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י סְדֹ֑ם וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הֹלֵ֥ךְ עִמָּ֖ם לְשַׁלְּחָֽם׃ (יז) וַֽה' אָמָ֑ר הַֽמְכַסֶּ֤ה אֲנִי֙ מֵֽאַבְרָהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֲנִ֥י עֹשֶֽׂה׃ (יח) וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (יט) כִּ֣י יְדַעְתִּ֗יו לְמַ֩עַן֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְצַוֶּ֜ה אֶת־בָּנָ֤יו וְאֶת־בֵּיתוֹ֙ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְשָֽׁמְרוּ֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ ה' לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת צְדָקָ֖ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט לְמַ֗עַן הָבִ֤יא ה' עַל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֖ר עָלָֽיו׃

(16) The agents set out from there and looked down toward Sodom, Abraham walking with them to see them off. (17) Now ה' had said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, (18) since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him? (19) For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of ה' by doing what is just and right, in order that ה' may bring about for Abraham what has been promised him.”

(כה) חָלִ֨לָה לְּךָ֜ מֵעֲשֹׂ֣ת ׀ כַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה לְהָמִ֤ית צַדִּיק֙ עִם־רָשָׁ֔ע וְהָיָ֥ה כַצַּדִּ֖יק כָּרָשָׁ֑ע חָלִ֣לָה לָּ֔ךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט֙ כׇּל־הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה מִשְׁפָּֽט׃
(25) Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
(כז) וַיַּ֥עַן אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הִנֵּה־נָ֤א הוֹאַ֙לְתִּי֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־אדושם וְאָנֹכִ֖י עָפָ֥ר וָאֵֽפֶר׃
(27) Abraham spoke up, saying, “Here I venture to speak to my lord, I who am but dust and ashes:
(ל) וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדושם וַאֲדַבֵּ֔רָה אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם שְׁלֹשִׁ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֔ה אִם־אֶמְצָ֥א שָׁ֖ם שְׁלֹשִֽׁים׃
(30) And he said, “Let not my lord be angry if I go on: What if thirty should be found there?” “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
(לב) וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדושם וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה אַךְ־הַפַּ֔עַם אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָעֲשָׂרָֽה׃ (לג) וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ ה' כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר כִּלָּ֔ה לְדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְאַבְרָהָ֖ם שָׁ֥ב לִמְקֹמֽוֹ׃
(32) And he said, “Let not my lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found there?” “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.” (33) Having finished speaking to Abraham, ה' departed; and Abraham returned to his place.
(לב) לְכָ֨ה נַשְׁקֶ֧ה אֶת־אָבִ֛ינוּ יַ֖יִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָ֣ה עִמּ֑וֹ וּנְחַיֶּ֥ה מֵאָבִ֖ינוּ זָֽרַע׃
(32) Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him, that we may maintain life through our father.”

(ב) וַיֹּ֧אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־שָׂרָ֥ה אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ אֲחֹ֣תִי הִ֑וא וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח אֲבִימֶ֙לֶךְ֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ גְּרָ֔ר וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־שָׂרָֽה׃ (ג) וַיָּבֹ֧א אֱלֹקִ֛ים אֶל־אֲבִימֶ֖לֶךְ בַּחֲל֣וֹם הַלָּ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הִנְּךָ֥ מֵת֙ עַל־הָאִשָּׁ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־לָקַ֔חְתָּ וְהִ֖וא בְּעֻ֥לַת בָּֽעַל׃ (ד) וַאֲבִימֶ֕לֶךְ לֹ֥א קָרַ֖ב אֵלֶ֑יהָ וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אדושם הֲג֥וֹי גַּם־צַדִּ֖יק תַּהֲרֹֽג׃ (ה) הֲלֹ֨א ה֤וּא אָֽמַר־לִי֙ אֲחֹ֣תִי הִ֔וא וְהִֽיא־גַם־הִ֥וא אָֽמְרָ֖ה אָחִ֣י ה֑וּא בְּתׇם־לְבָבִ֛י וּבְנִקְיֹ֥ן כַּפַּ֖י עָשִׂ֥יתִי זֹֽאת׃

(2) Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. (3) But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “You are to die because of the woman that you have taken, for she is a married woman.” (4) Now Abimelech had not approached her. He said, “O lord, will You slay people even though innocent? (5) He himself said to me, ‘She is my sister’! And she also said, ‘He is my brother.’ When I did this, my heart was blameless and my hands were clean.”

(א) וַֽה' פָּקַ֥ד אֶת־שָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמָ֑ר וַיַּ֧עַשׂ ה' לְשָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽר׃ (ב) וַתַּ֩הַר֩ וַתֵּ֨לֶד שָׂרָ֧ה לְאַבְרָהָ֛ם בֵּ֖ן לִזְקֻנָ֑יו לַמּוֹעֵ֕ד אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר אֹת֖וֹ אֱלֹקִֽים׃
(1) ה' took note of Sarah as promised, and ה' did for Sarah what had been announced. (2) Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken.
(ט) וַתֵּ֨רֶא שָׂרָ֜ה אֶֽת־בֶּן־הָגָ֧ר הַמִּצְרִ֛ית אֲשֶׁר־יָלְדָ֥ה לְאַבְרָהָ֖ם מְצַחֵֽק׃ (י) וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם גָּרֵ֛שׁ הָאָמָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את וְאֶת־בְּנָ֑הּ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יִירַשׁ֙ בֶּן־הָאָמָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את עִם־בְּנִ֖י עִם־יִצְחָֽק׃ (יא) וַיֵּ֧רַע הַדָּבָ֛ר מְאֹ֖ד בְּעֵינֵ֣י אַבְרָהָ֑ם עַ֖ל אוֹדֹ֥ת בְּנֽוֹ׃ (יב) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹקִ֜ים אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֗ם אַל־יֵרַ֤ע בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ עַל־הַנַּ֣עַר וְעַל־אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ כֹּל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֥ר אֵלֶ֛יךָ שָׂרָ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹלָ֑הּ כִּ֣י בְיִצְחָ֔ק יִקָּרֵ֥א לְךָ֖ זָֽרַע׃ (יג) וְגַ֥ם אֶת־בֶּן־הָאָמָ֖ה לְג֣וֹי אֲשִׂימֶ֑נּוּ כִּ֥י זַרְעֲךָ֖ הֽוּא׃
(9) Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. (10) She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (11) The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. (12) But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you. (13) As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”
(יד) וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֣ם אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ בַּבֹּ֡קֶר וַיִּֽקַּֽח־לֶ֩חֶם֩ וְחֵ֨מַת מַ֜יִם וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֶל־הָ֠גָ֠ר שָׂ֧ם עַל־שִׁכְמָ֛הּ וְאֶת־הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֶ֑הָ וַתֵּ֣לֶךְ וַתֵּ֔תַע בְּמִדְבַּ֖ר בְּאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃
(14) Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
(ה) וּבָנ֞וּ אֶת־בָּמ֣וֹת הַבַּ֗עַל לִשְׂרֹ֧ף אֶת־בְּנֵיהֶ֛ם בָּאֵ֖שׁ עֹל֣וֹת לַבָּ֑עַל אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־צִוִּ֙יתִי֙ וְלֹ֣א דִבַּ֔רְתִּי וְלֹ֥א עָלְתָ֖ה עַל־לִבִּֽי׃ {פ}
(5) They have built shrines to Baal, to put their children to the fire as burnt offerings to Baal—which I never commanded, never decreed, and which never came to My mind.

״אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוֵּיתִי״ — זֶה בְּנוֹ שֶׁל מֵישַׁע מֶלֶךְ מוֹאָב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיִּקַּח אֶת בְּנוֹ הַבְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר יִמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ עֹלָה״; ״וְלֹא דִבַּרְתִּי״ — זֶה יִפְתָּח; ״וְלֹא עָלְתָה עַל לִבִּי״ — זֶה יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם.

The Gemara interprets each phrase of this verse: “Which I did not command,” this is referring to the son of Mesha, king of Moab. King Mesha sacrificed his son, as it is stated: “Then he took his firstborn son, who would reign after him, and he offered him as a burnt-offering” (II Kings 3:27). “And I did not speak,” this is referring to Jephthah, who sacrificed his daughter as an offering. “Nor did it come into my heart,” this is referring to Isaac, son of Abraham. Although God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, there was no intent in God’s heart that he should actually do so; it was merely a test.

אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אַתָּה אָמַרְתָּ אֶת שֶׁלְּךָ וְאֹמַר אֲנִי אֶת שֶׁלִּי. עֲתִידִין בָּנָיו שֶׁל יִצְחָק לַחֲטוֹא לְפָנַי וַאֲנִי דָן אוֹתָם בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה. אֶלָּא אִם מְבַקְשִׁין שֶׁאֲחַפֵּשׂ לָהֶן זְכוּת וְאֶזְכֹּר לָהֶן עֲקֵדַת יִצְחָק, יִהְיוּ תוֹקְעִין לְפָנַי בְּשׁוֹפָר שֶׁל זֶה. אָמַר לוֹ: וּמַה הוּא הַשּׁוֹפָר? אָמַר לוֹ: חֲזוֹר לַאֲחוֹרֶיךָ. מִיָּד, וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה אַיִל אַחַר נֶאֱחָז בַּסְּבַךְ בְּקַרְנָיו. זֶה אֶחָד מֵעֲשָׂרָה דְּבָרִים שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ בֵּין הַשְּׁמָשׁוֹת.

The Holy One, blessed be He, answered: “You have spoken what was in you heart, now I will say what I wish to say. In the future Isaac’s descendants will sin against Me, and I will judge them on Rosh Hashanah. If they want Me to discover something to their credit, and to recall for their advantage the binding of Isaac, let them blow upon this shofar.” Abraham asked: “What shofar?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said: “Turn around. Then it was that Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind a ram caught in the thicket by his horns (Gen. 22:13). This was one of the ten things that were created at twilight.

אָמַר רַבִּי אַחָא הִתְחִיל אַבְרָהָם תָּמֵהַּ, אֵין הַדְּבָרִים הַלָּלוּ אֶלָּא דְבָרִים שֶׁל תֵּמַהּ, אֶתְמוֹל אָמַרְתָּ (בראשית כא, יב): כִּי בְיִצְחָק יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע, חָזַרְתָּ וְאָמַרְתָּ (בראשית כב, ב): קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ, וְעַכְשָׁיו אַתְּ אָמַר לִי (בראשית כב, יב): אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל הַנַּעַר, אֶתְמְהָא. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אַבְרָהָם (תהלים פט, לה): לֹא אֲחַלֵּל בְּרִיתִי וּמוֹצָא שְׂפָתַי לֹא אֲשַׁנֶּה. כְּשֶׁאָמַרְתִּי לְךָ קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ, לֹא אָמַרְתִּי שְׁחָטֵהוּ, אֶלָּא וְהַעֲלֵהוּ, לְשֵׁם חִבָּה אָמַרְתִּי לָךְ, אֲסִקְתֵּיהּ וְקִיַּמְתָּ דְּבָרַי, וְעַתָּה אַחֲתִינֵיהּ.

[נסח אחר: משלו משל למלך שאמר לאוהבו העלה את בנך על שלחני, הביאו אותו אוהבו וסכינו בידו, אמר המלך וכי העלהו לאכלו אמרתי לך, העלהו אמרתי לך מפני חבתו. הדא הוא דכתיב (ירמיה יט, ה): ולא עלתה על לבי, זה יצחק. ]

Rabbi Acha said, "Avraham started to wonder, 'These words are only words of wonder. Yesterday, you told me (Genesis 21:12), "Because in Itzchak will your seed be called." And [then] you went back and said, "Please take your son." And now You say to me, "Do not send your hand to the youth." It is a wonder!' The Holy One, blessed be He, said, 'Avraham, "I will not profane My covenant and the utterances of My lips, I will not change" (Psalms 89:35) – When I said, "Please take your son," I did not say, "slaughter him," but rather, "and bring him up." For the sake of love did I say [it] to you: I said to you, "Bring him up," and you have fulfilled My words. And now, bring him down.’ [A different version: They said a parable about a king that said to his friend, 'Bring up your son to my table.' His friend brought him up and his knife was in his hand. The king said, 'And did I say to you, "Bring him up to eat him?" I said to you, "Bring him up"' – [and this was] because of [the king's] love.) This is [the meaning of] what is written (Jeremiah 19:5), 'it did not come up on My heart' – that is Itzchak."]

Jon Levenson

Both Levenson and Moberly have issued stern warnings to anyone who would propose a critical interpretation of the Aqedah today.

Levenson’s theory that the ritual of offering the firstborn son to God is the probable historical context of the Aqedah, along with his view that this ritual was transformed over time into a “sublime religious paradigm” relevant to both Judaism and Christianity.

This is the basis for Levenson’s distinguishing between the situation in Gen. 18 (where Abraham protests the destruction of Sodom) and Gen. 22 (where he submits to the command to kill his own son). Whereas the first is a forensic context (where ethical questions are relevant), the second is a sacrificial context (and so ethics isn’t relevant).

Abraham's Silence The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God 2021 by J. Richard Middleton (p. 163).

See also: The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity 1995 by Jon D. Levenson

את בנך. אָמַר לוֹ שְׁנֵי בָנִים יֵשׁ לִי, אָמַר לוֹ אֶת יְחִידְךָ; אָמַר לוֹ זֶה יָחִיד לְאִמּוֹ וְזֶה יָחִיד לְאִמּוֹ, אָמַר לוֹ אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ; אָמַר לוֹ שְׁנֵיהֶם אֲנִי אוֹהֵב, אָמַר לוֹ אֶת יִצְחָק (סנהדרין פ"ט). וְלָמָּה לֹא גִּלָּה לוֹ מִתְּחִלָּה? שֶׁלֹּא לְעַרְבְּבוֹ פִּתְאוֹם וְתָזוּחַ דַּעְתּוֹ עָלָיו וְתִטָּרֵף, וּכְדֵי לְחַבֵּב עָלָיו אֶת הַמִּצְוָה וְלִתֵּן לוֹ שָׂכָר עַל כָּל דִּבּוּר וְדִבּוּר:
את בנך THY SON — Abraham said to God, “I have two sons”. “He answered him, “Thine only son”. Abraham said, “This one is the only son of his mother and the other is the only son of his mother”. God then said, “the one whom thou lovest”. Abraham replied, “I love both of them”. Whereupon God said “even Isaac”. Why did He not disclose this to him at the very first? So as not to confuse him suddenly lest his mind become distracted and bewildered and in his confused state he would involuntarily consent, when there would have been no merit in his sacrifice, and so that he might more highly value God’s command and that God might reward him for the increasing sacrifice demanded by obedience to each and every expression used here (Genesis Rabbah 55:7).

Why Didn’t Abraham Receive the Torah? A Piyyuṭ by Qillir

According to rabbinic midrash, the Torah antedates the creation of the world (Gen. Rab. 8:2). Why, then, did God wait until the time of Moses to actually bestow it upon the world? In a piyyuṭ for Shavuot,[9] R. Qilliri answers that until the time of Moses, no worthy recipient could be found.

The poem takes the form of a dialogue between two characters:

  1. God reviews history looking for people to whom the Torah may be gifted.
  2. The Torah rejects each potential recipient with a critical look at their flaws.

And thus, we hear of the great of yore, and the flaws of each. Adam was ruled out because of the sin; Cain because of his murder; Noah because of his drunkenness. Then we come to Abraham.[10]

God begins, in Qilliri’s poem, with all the reasons to think that Abraham may indeed be deserving:

סב לסוף עשרים צץ איש עצתי
סלה למולו ששתי ועלצתי
שרף פסילים ועליו הצצתי
סובליו עזב להכנס במחיצתי

עֶלֶם אשר חננתו בכלות כֹּחוֹ

עקדוֹ על עצי מזבחו

עצור שלושה ימים עָשׂ אפרוחו

עָרַב ונרצה ניחוחו

עָצַם ובכל ארץ הפיח ריחו

עניין כְּרַחֵם אב על בנים בְּשָׁכְחוֹ

עטיפת תחִנָּה היה לו לערוך בְּשִֹיחוֹ

'עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי' שִׁימַּעְתּוֹ לשבחו

עושה ארץ בכחו.

Turning to the end of twenty he saw
Indeed, to circumcise him I rejoiced and exulted
He burnt idols, and I gazed upon him
He abandoned his family to enter my fold.

The young man with whom you graced him when his strength was spent
He bound on the wood of the altar
Arrested for three days, he offered his chick
It was pleasant, and his offering was accepted
He became great, and his reputation spread throughout the land.
But he forgot how a father is supposed to have mercy on children
A prayer or plea he should have offered!
“Now I know,” you said to him, to praise him,
The One who made the land with his strength.

See: Abraham Passes the Test of the Akedah But Fails as a Father, Prof. Aaron Koller

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

עִם כְּשֶׁהוּא שׁוֹחֵט, וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו מַלְאַךְ ה' מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם. לָמָּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים? שֶׁהָיָה מְמַהֵר וְהוֹלֵךְ לְשָׁחֳטוֹ. וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל הַנַּעַר. אָמַר לוֹ: מִי אַתָּה? אָמַר לוֹ: מַלְאָךְ. אָמַר לוֹ: כְּשֶׁאָמַר לִי קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ אָמַר לִי. וְעַכְשָׁו אִם הוּא מְבַקֵּשׁ, הוּא יֹאמַר לִי.

When he was about to slaughter Isaac, an angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, saying: Abraham, Abraham (ibid. 22:11). Why was his name repeated? Because he was hastening to slaughter him. And He said: Lay not thy hand upon the lad (ibid., v. 12). Abraham asked: “Who are you?” And he replied: “An angel.’ Thereupon Abraham retorted: “When I was commanded, Take now thy son, it was the Holy One, blessed be He, who spoke to me; if He now wishes to stop me, let Him tell me so.”

(א) איני צריך לבאר ה׳חלום׳ מה הוא. אמנם ה׳מראה׳ – והוא אמרו: ״במראה אליו אתודע״ – והיא אשר תקרא ׳מראה נבואה׳ ותקרא גם כן ״יד יי״ והיא גם כן תקרא ׳מחזה׳ היא ענין איום מחריד יחובר לנביא בעת היקיצה – כמו שהתבאר בדניאל באמרו: ״ואראה את המראה הגדולה הזאת ולא נשאר בי כח והודי נהפך עלי למשחית ולא עצרתי כח״; ואמר: ״ואני הייתי נרדם על פני ופני ארצה״; ואמנם, דיבור המלאך אליו והעמידו לו – כל זה ב׳מראה הנבואה׳. ובכמו זה הענין יתבטלו החושים גם כן מפעולתם ויבוא השפע ההוא לכח הדברי וישפע ממנו על הכח המדמה וישלם ויעשה פעולתו. ופעמים תתחיל הנבואה ב׳מראה הנבואה׳ ואחר כן ירבה הרתת ההוא וההתפעלות החזק הנמשך אחר שלמות פעולת המדמה ואז תבוא הנבואה – כמו שבא באברהם אשר בא בתחילת הנבואה ההיא ״היה דבר ה' אל אברם במחזה״ וסופו ״ותרדמה נפלה על אברם וגו׳״ ואחר כן ״ויאמר לאברם וגו׳״.

(ב) ודע, כי כל מי שנזכר מן הנביאים שבאתהו הנבואה – יש מהם מי שייחס זה אל ׳מלאך׳ ומהם מי שייחסו לאלוק אף על פי שהיה על ידי ׳מלאך׳ בלא ספק. כבר כתבו ה׳חכמים ז״ל׳ על זה ואמרו: ״ויאמר ה' לה״ – על ידי מלאך״. ודע, כי כל מי שבא בו כתוב שדיבר עמו ׳מלאך׳ או באהו דבר מהאלוה – שזה לא יהיה בשום פנים אלא ב׳חלום׳ או ב׳מראה הנבואה׳.

(ג) וכבר באה ההגדה על הדבר המגיע לנביאים לפי מה שבא בו הסיפור בספרי הנביאים על ארבע צורות. הצורה הראשונה – יגלה הנביא שהדיבור ההוא היה מה׳מלאך׳ ׳בחלום׳ או ׳במראה׳. והצורה השניה – שזיכור דיבור ה׳מלאך׳ לו – לבד, ולא יבאר שזה היה ׳בחלום׳ או ׳במראה׳ מפני שהוא סומך על מה שכבר נודע שאין נבואה אלא על אחד משני הפנים: ״במראה אליו אתודע, בחלום אדבר בו״. והצורה השלישית היא – אשר לא יזכור ׳מלאך׳ כלל אבל ייחס המאמר לאלוק שהוא אמרו לו, אלא שהוא יגלה שבאהו הדבר ההוא ׳במראה׳ או ׳בחלום׳. והצורה הרביעית – שיאמר הנביא מאמר סתם שהאלוה דיבר אליו או אמר לו עשה זה או אמר זה, מבלתי באור לו בזכרון ׳מלאך׳ ולא בזכרון ׳חלום׳ מפני השענו על מה שכבר נודע והושרש שלא תבוא נבואה ולא חזון אלא ׳בחלום׳ או ׳במראה׳ ועל ידי ׳מלאך׳.

(ד) ואמנם מה שבא על הצורה הראשונה – כאמרו: ״ויאמר אלי מלאך האלקים בחלום״ ויאמר אלקים לישראל במראות הלילה״, ״ויבא אלקים אל בלעם״, ״ויאמר אלקים אל בלעם . ואמנם מה שבא על הצורה השנית – כאמרו: ״ויאמר אלקים אל יעקב קום עלה בית אל״, ״ויאמר לו אלקים שמך יעקב״, ״ויקרא אליו מלאך ה' מן השמים״, ״ויקרא מלאך ה' אל אברהם שנית וגו׳״, ״ויאמר אלקים לנח״, ״וידבר אלקים אל נח״. ואמנם מה שבא על הצורה השלישית – כאמרו: ״היה דבר ה' אל אברם במחזה וגו׳״. ואמנם מה שבא על הצורה הרביעית – כאמרו: ״ויאמר ה' אל אברם״,

(1) I NEED not explain what a dream is, but I will explain the meaning of the term mareh, “vision,” which occurs in the passage: “In a vision (be-mareh) do I make myself known unto him” (Num. 12:6). The term signifies that which is also called mareh ha-nebuah, “prophetic vision,” yad ha-shem, “the hand of God,” and maḥazeh, “a vision.” It is something terrible and fearful which the prophet feels while awake, as is distinctly stated by Daniel: “And I saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me, for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Dan, 10:8). He afterwards continues, “Thus was I in deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground” (ibid. ver. 9). But it was in a prophetic vision that the angel spoke to him and “set him upon his knees.”

(2) Under such circumstances the senses cease to act, and the [Active Intellect] influences the rational faculties, and through them the imaginative faculties, which become perfect and active. Sometimes the prophecy begins with a prophetic vision, the prophet greatly trembles, and is much affected in consequence of the perfect action of the imaginative faculty: and after that the prophecy follows. This was the case with Abraham. The commencement of the prophecy is, “The word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision” (Gen. 15:1); after this, “a deep sleep fell upon Abraham”; and at last, “he said unto Abraham,” etc.

When prophets speak of the fact that they received a prophecy, they say that they received it from an angel, or from God; but even in the latter case it was likewise received through an angel. Our Sages, therefore, explain the words, “And the Lord said unto her” that He spake through an angel. You must know that whenever Scripture relates that the Lord or an angel spoke to a person, this took place in a dream or in a prophetic vision.

(3) There are four different ways in which Scripture relates the fact that a divine communication was made to the prophet. (1) The prophet relates that he heard the words of an angel in a dream or vision; (2) He reports the words of the angel without mentioning that they were perceived in a dream or vision, assuming that it is well known that prophecy can only originate in one of the two ways, “In a vision I will make myself known unto him, in a dream I will speak unto him” (Num. 12:6). (3) The prophet does not mention the angel at all; he says that God spoke to him, but he states that he received the message in a dream or a vision. (4) He introduces his prophecy by stating that God spoke to him, or told him to do a certain thing, or speak certain words, but he does not explain that he received the message in a dream or vision, because he assumes that it is well known, and has been established as a principle that no prophecy or revelation originates otherwise than in a dream or vision, and through an angel.

(4) Instances of the first form are the following:—“And the angel of the Lord said unto me in a dream, Jacob” (Gen. 31:11); “And an angel said unto Israel in a vision of night” (ibid. 46:2); “And an angel came to Balaam by night”; “And an angel said unto Balaam” (Num. 22:20-72). Instances of the second form are these: “And Elohim (an angel), said unto Jacob, Rise, go up to Bethel” (Gen. 35:1); “And Elohim said unto him, Thy name is Jacob,” etc. (ibid. 35:10); “And an angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time” (ibid. 22:15); “And Elohim said unto Noah” (ibid. 6:13). The following is an instance of the third form: “The word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision” (ibid. 15:1). Instances of the fourth form are: “And the Lord said unto Abraham” (ibid. 18:13);

Let us now turn to an act of censorship, not of Maimonides, but of one of the standard commentaries of his Guide of the Perplexed. This particular instance is relevant to Orthodox biblical studies as it relates to the historicity of events described in the Bible. Maimonides famously declared that some of the seoccurrences actually only happened in a dream or prophetic vision.
One of these is the visit of the 'men' (angels) to Abraham in Genesis 18. Nahmanides was outraged by Maimonides' opinion, declaring, 'Such words contradict Scripture. It is forbidden to listen to them, all the more to believe in them," (commentary on Genesis 18:1)

The Akedah is in an entirely different category than the Jonah story. Long before Kierkegaard, this was regarded as a central tale of the Bible, focusing as it does on faith in God in the face of an unthinkable demand. The Sages of the talmudic period recognized the centrality of the story, and during the medieval persecutions of European Jewry, Jews turned again and again to the Akedah, drawing all sorts of messages fromn it. Maimonides himself describes the story as 'the most extraordinary thing that could happen in the world, such a thing that one would not imagine that human nature was capable of it'. Thus, Efodi's assertion that, according to Maimonides, the story of the Akedah never really happened would be regarded by traditionalists as radical and unacceptable.

Efodi was not the first to understand Maimonides as teaching that the Akedah was not a historical event." ( Among modern scholars, Maimonides was understood in this way by Nuriel, Concealed and

Revealed (Heb.), I54-7, and Y. Leibowitz, Discussions (Heb.), 8o, 86, G62. ) He was preceded in this by R. Isaac Ibn Latif (121o-80),7 R. Zerahyah ben Yitshak ben She'alti'el Hen (thirteenth century),7 R. Abraham Abulafia (thirteenth century)," and R. Joseph Ibn Kaspi (1279-1340)," Efodi's contemporary, R. Eleazar Ashkenazi ben Nathan Habavli (fourteenth century), also understood Maimonides in this fashion and agreed with this interpretation." According to him, if the Akedah had actually happened, one would have expected Abraham to question the command, much as he questioned God when informed of Sodom's coming fate.


R. Jacob Anatoli,"" R. Moses ben Joshua of Narbonne (commonly called Narboni; d. 1362),7 and R. Nissim of Marseilles (fourteenth century) also appear to have held that the Akedah was not historical. R. Nissim thought that Ibn Ezra accepted this position as well, (For others who understood the Akedah in a non-literal fashion, see D. Schwartz, Amulets, Charms, and Rationalism (Heb.), 7I-2, 73 n. I4) The thirteenth-century R. Samuel Saporto feels compelled to reject this view, which presumably means that it was held by more than a few intellectuals." Abarbanel also notes that many scholars held that the Akedah was not historical, a position he rejects."

Although there are a number of interpreters who understand Maimonides to be rejecting the historicity of the Akedah, for at least one person it was too much to have Efodi's commentary, expressing such a view, publicly available. While most of the examples of censorship we examine in this book

I thank my friend and "Hasidic Maskil of Clubhouse" Yochanan Lowen for pointing this source out to me.

Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History Hardcover – May 1, 2015

by Marc B. Shapiro pp 67-70