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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayera

Parashat Vayera

The Trial of the Binding of Isaac

We blow a ram’s horn on the Day of Judgment in order to awaken the merit of the binding of Isaac. Would it not be more appropriate, though, to lift up a slaughtering knife and proclaim that with such a knife was Abraham ready to sacrifice his son?
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Ruchama Lea daugther of Chaya Hinda
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Abraham’s tenth and final trial was that of the binding of Isaac. In his first trial - "God said to Abraham, 'Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you....'" - Abraham is told to divorce himself from his past. His final trial, though, is even more difficult. This time, he is told to renounce his future. He is being put to the test with regard to his entire life’s work.

At the age of three, Abraham came to the conclusion that the world has a creator, smashed his father's idols, and was saved from the fiery furnace in Ur Casdim. He threw himself into the fire in sanctification of God’s name. When he was miraculously saved from death, he began to "make souls," i.e., gather a following which he would teach that the world has a creator.

Abraham took in guests, and when they thanked him, he told them that the world has a Master, and that there is no need to thank him. Via the duties between man and his fellow man, he brought them to an awareness of the duties between man and God, and, later, to the obligation of ransoming captives when he saved Lot. Positive action, though, is not enough; one must also fight evil. Abraham fought against, among other things, the worship of the fire-god Molekh which involved child sacrifice. This was idolatry which also embodied the transgression of both the duties between man and his fellow man and those between man and God.

We can just imagine what was going through Abraham’s mind during those three days on which he journeyed to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Upon descending from the mountain, he would have to relate to everybody that he sacrificed his son as a burnt-offering to God. Would not this call into question all of his success in his fight against the worshippers of Molekh in the name of "thou shall not kill"?

This was a very difficult trial, calling his entire life-long struggle into question.

Yet, all the same, "The two of them walked together." Abraham binds and ties Isaac in order not to damage his innocence. He controls himself carefully and exactly.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, one of the leaders of Chassidic movement, asked the following question: We blow on a ram’s horn on the Day of Judgment in order to awaken the merit of the act of the binding of Isaac. If this is the goal, why do we blow on the ram’s horn which recalls the fact that Isaac was not sacrificed? It would be more appropriate to hold up a slaughtering knife and proclaim that with a similar knife was Abraham ready to sacrifice his son.

The answer is that the blowing of the ram’s horn recalls the words of the Almighty, "Do not harm the lad, and do not do a thing to him." We "remind" the Almighty that, in the end, He was opposed to human sacrifices; we too, today, anticipate the fulfillment of the eternal promise, "Do not harm the lad."

We too, at this time, say, "Enough!" to the evil adversary of death - we pray and request of the Almighty that the sacrifices cease and that we merit a speedy and complete redemption.
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