One Shabbos, while visiting with the Jewish students at the University of Connecticut, I had an interesting conversation with the adult sitting next to me. He suggested that the ultimate test of the Akeida was not that Avrohom would do as Hashem asked, but that he would say, ‘No! It’s immoral.”
I have to admit I was not ready for this reading of the story. At the time, all I could muster was an explanation that this idea doesn’t fit with how it’s written in the Chumash, because Avrohom indeed receives Hashem’s eternal blessings for being ready to do as He asked.
This discussion took place 12 years ago. In the interim I have come to realize that this is the exact test that the Akeida presented, it wasn’t just about the love of his son versus the love of Hashem. It was a test to see what he viewed as the foundation for morality. Is morality drawn from intuition? Is it a philosophy? Or is it based on the will of the creator?
When Avrohom Avinu said he was ready to sacrifice his son, he established G-d as the source for all moral principles.
The angel then stopped Avrohom and ordered him to take his son down from the alter. Hashem tells Avrohom that he never said to shecht Yitzchak, rather to offer his son, because Hashem does not want human sacrifice.
The Akeida and karbanos in general, are a litmus test from where we derive our morality. Today, when the nation of Avrohom does not lie, steal, or kill, it’s not because we would feel immoral doing so. It’s because G-d gave us a moral code by which to run our lives.
It’s simple to see the wisdom of this when looking at current world news. Many morally upright individuals have a hard time standing up for the people of Israel because Israelis look like a Goliath and the terrorists appear like David. Instead of viewing the security forces in Israel as having a moral obligation to defend the innocent, the most we can get is that Israel has the “right” to defend herself.
Navigating moral dilemmas based on personal feelings can get very confusing. The same people who had an issue with Orthodox Jews ‘standing out’ seem to be mesmerized by Muslims proudly dressing according to their religion.
An unrooted moral code is very dangerous. It elects false leaders and enables countries such as Russia, Iran, Syria and too many others, to carry out their own treacherous agendas. As the midrash teaches, one who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately be cruel to the compassionate.
Let us continue praying and doing acts of kindness so that the chaos engulfing the world transpires b’chessed ubirachamim, leading into the geulah shleimu ubimheira biyameinu.
Have a wonderful Shabbos,