Killing A Child: Rational or Fananical?

The Sacrifice of Isaac


I. Questions

A. Why only Abraham's test mentioned?

B. How can G-d command murder? (Reward for readiness to obey implies it is right to obey.)

C. How is this different from other human sacrifice?

(D. What was Abraham's motivation for obeying?)

II. Philosophical-Cabalistic essence of patriarchs

A. Abraham = chesed - lovingkindness -love, identification with the other - angels, Sodom

B. Isaac = din - strict justice - to receive only what is deserved, earned, possessed by right

III. The Test

A. For Abraham: to kill his own son, received via miracle, promised to be his continuation; impossible to identify with Isaac or G-d - contradicts his essence

&B. For Isaac: there is no right to life vis-a-vis G-d - life is a continuous free gift - even a perfect tzadik cannot claim more life - expresses and applies his essence

IV. Answers

A. Torah's interest is in test of acting against essence

B. G-d's command to kill is not murder - all expect death - must have genuine command!

C. Other human sacrifice motivated economically - compare modern army, lifeboat cases - not applicable to Abraham

D. Abraham motivated by belief that there is an explanation: "absurd to me" not = "absurd" (vs. Kirkegaard) - test only after decades of experience (Egypt, war, covenant of the pieces, Isaac's birth)

V. Applications: to develop beyond one's natural strengths; to trust (rationally!) that seemingly untoward events have an explanation


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