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    The Akedah cast – do they really have a say?

    On the second day of Rosh HaShanah the centrepiece of the Torah reading is Akedat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac.

    The story has three characters, not just one… not just Abraham, but Isaac and God too, and we wonder whether any of them has any real say in the unfolding events.

    Abraham

    Abraham is being “tested”, whatever the word “tested” means. Does anyone ask him whether he is prepared to go along with the plan?

    One answer: he could (at least in theory) say No. God doesn’t command him: He entreats him. He says, “Please take your son…” He is given time to think it through.

    The Sefat Emet notes that it takes the patriarch three days to reach his destination, three days to think the plan through and either to reject it or decide to go ahead.

    Isaac

    Does Isaac have any say? The text says – twice – “And they (father and son) went ahead together.” The implication is that Isaac knows what is going on and is prepared for it to happen.

    He had a dream that family destiny would be assured because of him, and now he has acquiesced in the fateful decision that there might be no destiny, no family, no dreams fulfilled.

    It would help our understanding of the event if the chapter began, “God tested Abraham and Isaac” instead of leaving Isaac out.

    God

    Despite the wording of the text, is God not caught up in events that might get out of His control?

    The Torah is adamant that man has free will. How can God be certain that Abraham (and Isaac) will exercise that free will to act in a way that proclaims God in the world?

    Has God any option but to put the patriarch and his son through the harshest test that any human heart and mind could ever be asked to contemplate?

    Isn’t God putting Himself through a test too, to ascertain whether He possesses the determination to ask His creatures to give Him the apparently impossible?

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