Reading Between the Lines of Isaac's Binding

“God said: please take your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzchak…and offer him there for a burnt offering. (Bereisheet/Genesis 22:2)

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105) comments on this disturbing verse:

The term ‘please’ shows that God is not commanding Avraham, but is making a request. What is the nature of the request? God is saying, “I request of you to withstand this test for my sake, so that people won’t be able to say that your life experiences were not substantial.

Why does God take so long to tell Avraham clearly whom he should offer? Because hidden in the text is a dialogue between God and Avraham. God says, “Take your son.” Avraham says, “I have two sons.” God says, “Your only son.” Avraham says, “Each one is his mother’s only son.” God says, “The one you love.” Avraham says, “I love them both.” God says, “Yitzchak.”

Why did God tell Avraham to offer his son, rather than to ritually slaughter him? Because the Holy One of Blessing did not wish for Avraham to slaughter him, only bring him up the mountain and offer him. How do we know this? Because after Avraham brought Yitzchak up, God said, “Bring him back down.”

Rashi’s point: We should follow the example of Avraham, our spiritual parent. We should all recognize that God acts in partnership with us; that God invites us to question and discuss everything religious; and that, though we may suffer at times in our lives, God’s loving presence is always available to help bring us back.

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