Tag Archives: Genesis

A little more on silence and the Akeidah

A piece of commentary from last week…

This week we read the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, I know, again.

Still, it may contain the most important long walk in the entire Torah, if not in our entire tradition.

God sends Abraham on a long walk to bind and, in Abraham’s mind, sacrifice Isaac. Here’s the text from Genesis, Chapter 22, just to refresh our memories:

Gen. 22:2 He said: Pray take your son, your only-one, whom you love, Yitzhak, and go-you-forth to the land of Moriyya/Seeing, and offer him up there as an offering-up upon one of the mountains that I will tell you of.

Gen. 22:3 Avraham started-early in the morning, he saddled his donkey, he took his two serving-lads with him and Yitzhak his son, he split wood for the offering-up and arose and went to the place that God had told him of.

Gen. 22:4 On the third day Avraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.

Rabbi David Kimchi remarked on this, nearly 700 years ago, that God could have asked Abraham to do this immediately. God doesn’t. God says go on a walk. Think about it, in Rabbi Kimchi’s words, so that he would have three days’ time to build insight for himself on the matter.

That seems pretty reasonable. Most of us take at least that long to make a decision of importance. From relationships, to large purchases, from job changes, to college applications – we spend a lot of time reflecting on what to do in those moments of our lives. The wisdom from the Torah here reminds us that we do well when we do this, especially if we give ourselves the time to take a walk.

On that walk we may find the moments to reflect and to listen. We have to listen to the quieter voices around us and within us. In the words of Hannah Senesh, “the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens,” – we are often too caught up in the noise of the everyday to even notice the thundering of the world beyond our walls.

Our prayers on Shabbat offer us moments to take an inner walk, to find our ways within. These moments of silence that we enter together every week, every time we offer t’fillah, can be that walk. They can be the time to travel deeper, to build upon our insights, to construct new frames of wisdom.

May the silence we find together allow us to walk towards a meaningful Shabbat.

Let us take a few longer moments of silence to deepen the walk into our selves.

Opting out is not an option!

This week’s parashah, Va-Yeishev, opens, “And Jacob settled in the land of his father’s soujourns, in the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 37:1)

Jacob aimed to return to the land of his father in peace. Following his dramatic dream of angels going up and down from earth he prayed: “…if I come back in peace to my father’s house…” (Genesis 28:21)

Rashi, one of the classic Medieval commentators imagined God’s response to Jacob’s settling: “Is it not enough for the righteous, what is prepared for them in the world to come, that they seek to settle in peace in this world?”

Doing the work, wrestling towards greater meaning and more righteous communities and society – these efforts can exhaust us even as we know we must continue them.

Even Jacob, named Israel the God wrestler, hoped that his struggle would end, that he could settle down and finally rest. Jacob’s life reminds us that the work to build and maintain family continues even as our families mature. As Jacob longed to settle, his adult sons misbehaved without his leadership, and his family spun out of control.

Let us rally each other to continue to make the efforts, to continue to strive. We continually discover the wisdom to help us do the work as long as we continue to wrestle.

Today’s Parashah – Va-Yeira

An Elul thought a day on each of the Torah readings of the year continues – parashat ha-yom!

For today, Va-Yeira, the fourth parashah of the Torah, Genesis 18:1 – 22:24, and the ongoing stories around Abraham.

Sarah gives birth to Isaac, a miraculous child of her senior years, and casts out Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. The Torah itself offers us a better alternative for surrogate motherhood in the Rachel and Leah who offer their handmaids to Jacob and raise their children as their own.

An Elul thought on this: we admit that we can improve situations by rethinking our approaches, and sometimes going back to the drawing board.

Torah Thought a Day – Bereisheet

A thought a day on each of the Torah readings of the year for Elul and the High Holy Days culminating around Simchat Torah – I might actually get through all the parshiot!

For today, Bereisheet, the first parashah of the Torah – and filled with easy wisdom, like don’t get so filled with jealous anger that we kill our brothers. Here’s God’s warning to Cain from Genesis, Chapter 4:

Gen. 4:7 Is it not thus: If you intend good, bear-it-aloft, but if you do not intend good, at the entrance is sin, a crouching-demon, toward you his lust – but you can rule over him. (Translation from Schocken Bible)

Lesson for Elul for today – anger and bad intentions are part of us, let us try to accept them without guilt, and rule over them. The path to bad actions is paved with allowing our destructive tendencies to rule us.