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'Because you have… not withheld your son, your only one - I shall surely bless you and greatly multiply your children as the stars in the heavens, and as the sand on the seashore… and all the nations… shall bless yourselves by your offspring, because you obeyed My Voice' (22:16-18).
The Radak explains that last sentence as meaning that the nations shall pray to G-d: "Bless us as you have blessed the descendants of Abraham". Thus the Israelite tradition is one of Original Blessing - not Original Sin. Even though later blessings - [such as the ones in the second paragraph of the Shema: 'If you observe My Commandments… then I will bring the seasonal rains in their due time' (Deut. 11 13-14)] are conditional on the Israelites living up to their G-d-set expectations, there is a fundamental, underlying structure to the eternity of the relationship between G-d and His People. For the sufferings, agonies, and distress that were to form our history do not last forever - underlying it all is the eternity of the Israelite People as a people blessed by G-d. A similar idea is expressed for the eternity of the Israelite source of strength - the Torah - 'for it (the Torah) will never be forgotten…' (Deut. 31:21). It is indeed that underlying blessing that we recite on Rosh Hashanah: 'that You should forever remember the Binding of Isaac for Your Children: Blessed are You, G-d, who remembers the Covenant'.
However, the Akeida (Gen. 22, bringing the story of the near-offering of Isaac at the command of G-d) - typically taught to children at a very young age - is in fact one of the most frightening chapters in our sources, as it goes against the very fundamentals of human behavior. How may one explain G-d telling Abraham to do such a thing? Many commentators throughout out the ages attempt to clarify the story, and why Abraham's blessing became the Original Blessing for all time. Here is a suggestion.
The Kotzker Rebbe was asked: 'Where is G-d'. He answered: 'Wherever you bring Him in'.
This does not only apply in a geographical sense (exemplified by 'You shall make for Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in it' - Ex. 25:8), but also in a spiritual sense. G-d 'lives' as it were, in the way people bring Him into their lives - every mitzvah performed lishma (as an act fulfilling His will and thereby bring us a step closer to Him) 'brings Him closer to us' - to 'new places within us'. Abraham's carrying out G-d's command brought His Creation closer to Him. For Abraham - His Creation admitted Him in the closest, most intimate way. He did so by recognizing that G-d is the Source of all things, exemplified by accepting that it is He that gives and He that takes (c.f. Job 1:21).
Abraham - who spent his entire life tuning into, and promoting, the teachings of G-d within a culture that did not recognize Him - started that process of 'bringing G-d to the consciousness of the people' (c.f. Rashi's comment to 24:7). Only such a person - who had spiritually progressed all his life - was in a position to be the one to bring G-d to the ultimate core of humanity - namely to be utterly in charge of the framework of between father and son. And as Abraham was the originator of bringing G-d to the most fundamental place in the heart of Man, so G-d put Abraham and his descendants and followers into a special place in the Creation: within the framework of the Original Blessing…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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