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Communications.

DEAR EDITOR:

Your article in the winter issue ("Mr. Mani and the Akedah," Winter 2001) interested me greatly. Your solution to the horrifying story of Abraham and Isaac is brilliant.

As a secular Jew, I do not believe that the story of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice Isaac was divinely inspired. I suggest that it was created by a person who wanted to stop human sacrifice. If that person had campaigned against that practice, it is likely that he or she would have been the next victim. (I have read that that is what happened to people in some islands in the Pacific Ocean who expressed opposition to human sacrifice.)

So instead of preaching that human sacrifice should be abolished, the creator of the story of Abraham and Isaac had God forbid such sacrifice. That author succeeded in creating a tale that has rung down through the ages, and ended human sacrifice as a tenet of Judaism.

IRVING M. GRUBER

New York, New York

A. B. YEHOSHUA REPLIES:

I found Mr. Irving Gruber's letter, responding to my article on the Akedah, quite interesting, hut I am sorry to say that I only wish I could agree with him. If the story of the Akedah were only to counteract human sacrifices that were prevalent in pagan practice, then the story would have to be told in a different manner:

Abraham fulfills the divine command-or in my secular interpretation, his personal demand. He ties his son on the altar and prepares to sacrifice him. Then the angel in the name of God stops him and says, "Therefore, Abraham, thank you for your great loyalty, and your blind belief in the justice of this order. But you should know that in our view human sacrifice is an abominable act. Therefore, don't set thy hand against the boy...."

And perhaps the text would also add. "Yes, Abraham, it was right for you to entertain moral scruples before you rushed to fulfill God's order."

Well, if the text were written this way, even a secular Jew like myself could begin to believe in such a nice God. But the scriptural text is completely different. God only lauds Abraham on his willingness to bind and sacrifice his son. There is not one word of criticism of the essential nature of the proposed deed. Instead, the text reads as follows:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I swear, the LORD declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command."

Genesis 22: 15-18

Thus the scriptural text stands in direct opposition, to my regret, to the view of Mr. Gruber. In fact, it encourages and seduces other Jews to perform acts of this kind to prove their righteousness and steadfastness, and thus merit the blessing of this princely God (who incidentally never has fulfilled this promise). We know for a fact that during the Crusades, Jews slaughtered their children, while telling them the famous stories of Kiddush Hashem based on the guiding model of the Akedah. (Still, by contrast to the scriptural Akedah, these fathers and mothers who killed their children in the eleventh century in Germany, also committed suicide afterwards.)

Thus I do not see in the response of Mr. Gruber an appropriate interpretation. I have no other option than to return to my secular interpretation: Abraham stages the binding of Isaac in order to tie him to God, who rescues him at the last moment from the hands of his father.

What is the moral value of this deed? This is not the place or time to deal with this issue.

A. B. YEHOSHUA

Haifa, Israel
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Words:668
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