The comments on yesterday’s post about the deadly effects of Biblical literalism promted me to write the following response the interesting question raised there. For me, the whole point of the Akeidah (Binding of Isaac) story – found in Genesis 22, is that it is possible to combine the readiness to commit the act of sacrificing even our kids WITH the notion that it should not happen.

In many ways, the story in Genesis is the precursor to the idea of having many biblical transgressions deemed worthy of the death penalty but only one story in the entire Five Books of Moses in which anyone actually gets executed for their transgressions.
It’s that combination which makes the story both so radical and so remarkable. Neither the classical/Kirkekardian/Soloveitchik “knight of faith” willing to do anything for God, nor the liberal/occasionally Hasidic model which sees Abraham as failing the test, are satisfactory on their own. Each isolates the part of the story they like best, so it becomes even more a story about the reader than the topic, than usual.
And let’s face it, both dying for, and killing for, God IS seductive. Who know’s that better than I? From Abraham to Jesus to jihadists, crusaders and my old teacher Meir Kahane, it’s part of being human. No they are not all morally equivalent, but they are all rooted in the same human fascination with one’s “all” for God.
What I love about the arc of the Abraham story, including the Binding of Isaac, is that it preserves the tensions — precisely what parents Neumann failed to do. But of course, if they are right, then both their kid’s death and their current travails are all part of God’s plan and there is nothing for them to worry about. I just don’t want that approach considered legal anywhere I, or any children, have to live.
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