The Test

general
September 4, 2011
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Eric Mendolsohn

The selection of the Torah portions for both days ask us examine our most cherished patriarch and the founder of ethical monotheism.

Abraham’s public persona is that of revolutionary thinker[1], one who negotiates ably[2], succesful in bussiness,[3] making covenants both with people[4] and with God[5], one who shows hospitality and compassion to strangers[6], but is also able to fight well if necessary[7].

His private persona is quite different. He never reconciles with his parents[8]. Twice, to save his own life., he passes his wife off as his sister,[9] under circumstances which expose her to the likelihood of rape and/or concubinage;  he does not mediate between Sarah and Hagar[10]; he instantly believes accusations of abuse against his own son[11].; and he sends Hagar and Ishmael to the desert to die.

God does not allow him keep these to aspects of   personality separate  . The command to bind Issac puts a direct conflict between the patriarch Abraham, founder of Judaism, and the patriarch Abraham , father-leader of his clan

How he fares in the test is a matter discussed throughout the centuries. However, it is the inevitability of such a test for Abraham that teaches :

Dissonance between our private and public personae will inevitability lead to our             facing such a terrible test. Further  the very last words of N’viim hints this is a problem for all generations.”Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord.   He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents, so that, when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction.Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord.” [12] [12]

One reason why this story is told to us on Rosh Hashanah is to show us that sincere Tshuvah  can reduces this public vs private dissonance and thus can mitigate the severe decree of- “Take your son , your only son[13]…”


[1]There is no direct evidence of Abraham’s universal monothesim -Gen 14:19  does provide a clue -Who told Melchizedek  El Elyon who created heavean an earth was also Abram’s and thus everyone elses  God?

[2]Gen  18:16-33,

[3]Gen 13:2

[4]Gen 13:8

[5]Gen 15, Gen 17: 1-14

[6]Gen  18:1-16

[7]Gen 14 :13-23

[8]Gen  11:32

[9]Gen 12: 10-17,Gen 20

[10]Gen 21:19

[11]Gen 21:9  the word qxcm “play ” is ambiguous, it can mean innocent play, sex play, or sexual contact

[12] Mal 3:23-24

[13]Gen 22:2

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