Thursday, January 29, 2015

5 The Sacrifice Of Sarah #70days70years

I am learning to remember there once lived a person named Gezela Lorinz nee Noilander. She was born in Oradea Mare, Romania, 1885 and died in Auschwitz, 1944, aged 59. May her memory be for a blessing.

Essay 5 #70days70years

by Rabbi Dov Lipman

You can read the essay bu clicking on the title above. Here are my thoughts. 

Abraham is held up as the pinnacle of everything that is good. He searched for and found the truth about the one God of creation and ruler of the universe. He rejected idol worship which he believed to be wrong. He was generous and hospitable to strangers. He followed God's words with blind faith and devotion. As our founding Father he ticks all the boxes. 

However, Abraham is eventually asked by God to sacrifice his son as a test of his obedience. And he is willing to do so. Growing up on Bible stories, I too thought this was the absolute most you could do to prove your love for the Almighty. Then, many years ago, I heard Rabbi Donniel Hartman lecture on the subject. Rabbi Hartman said, "what was he thinking of? As a father of young children myself (at that time) I would have refused. Sorry God, but that's one test too far for me."

This was a lightbulb moment for me. Either not everything we read in the Bible is right, or we are reading it the wrong way. 

As children we are taught that the loving God had no intention of making Abraham actually go through with the sacrifice so that's all right then. Except that when they returned home they found that Sarah had died of a broken heart. Yes, it might have been her time to go anyway. She was a very old woman after all. However, you can die contented or you can die in despair that your husband is about to kill your only child. 

Rabbi Lipman writes that the good and wise Abraham understood many things way before his time but he never got to grips with how God dealt with him. He went along with it anyway because he had faith. Rabbi Lipman suggests that the lesson here is physical human beings can never fully comprehend the ways of God but we should not waver from our spiritual journey just as Abraham accepted that he didn't know everything. 

But between them God and Abraham killed Sarah who died a sad and lonely death for no good reason. Maybe we should read this story as an example of what not to do? It's not so blasphemous to suggest that our forefathers made mistakes, it's human nature. If we are to regard the Bible as a manual on how to live our lives as well as a (loosely) historical document, we need to be able to recognise the mistakes as mistakes. We also need to give weight and validity to the experiences of the women. 

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