Shabbat Vayeyra

Friday, November 3rd - Candles @ 5:29pm
November 4th - Havdala @ 6:23pm

Did God really want or expect Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac? I don’t think so, because the Torah says very clearly at the start of the episode that this was a test of Abraham. But many people have wondered why God would want to test Abraham as if God did not know how loyal he was and as if God had not already commanded human beings not to kill other human beings, whether murder or human sacrifice.

There are two crucial messages here. The first is that a person can be so passionately committed to an idea, to a belief that he would be prepared to do anything. Just look at those murderous, inhuman Jihadis. Religion that goes to such extremes is neither a religion nor the will of God.

The Torah distinguishes between Mishpat, the Law, and Tseddek, doing the right thing. We need both. Law is crucial, both civil and spiritual. But there are times when the law is too rigid and inhuman and only an inner sense of what is right can decide what to do. That is why in Jewish law if your boss or senior officer commands you to do something you feel is immoral, you must resist. On the other hand, if we only go by what we feel to be right, our feelings can mislead us and even corrupt us. We need Law too.

This whole narrative explains why it was not enough for Abraham to feel close to God and why it was necessary to have a Constitution, given on Sinai, to ensure that no one used God as an excuse for something inhuman.

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