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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayera

A Walk Through the Storm

Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 18 5781
7
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One of the most difficult sections of the Torah – arguably the most difficult – is the Akeida, the near sacrifice of Yitzchak by his father Avraham. As this Sedra was our beloved son Ari z"l’s Bar Mitzva parsha, it is of great importance to me. And, despite years of study, I, too, have struggled mightily with it. The questions, to be sure, are infinitely much better than the answers.

But let us walk together through one corridor of consideration.

If any "one-liner" defines the Akeida, it is the phrase, "Vayelchu Sh’neyhem Yachdav – and the two of them walked together." Curiously, this phrase is said twice: Once, when Avraham prepares the offering and takes the wood, the torch & the knife in hand; & then again just after Yitzchak asks, "Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?"

Now, why is this phrase said twice? That, I suggest, is the key question, as well as the key to unlocking a powerful insight into the deeper meaning of the Akeida.

First, let us consider: Just who are the "two" who walk together? On the surface, it seems clearly to be father & son. They "walk together;" that is, they are of one mind, each fully prepared to go through with this awesome test. But there is another possibility: The two walking together aren’t father & son, but rather Man & G-d!

Avraham must have been filled with great dread & doubt. "How can I kill my son, the one whom even G-d calls ‘my only son,’ my true heir? Why is this happening davka to me, the man of chesed? And what about G-d’s promise that my generations will go on & on forever?" Avraham does not have a clear answer to all these questions. But he does have Faith, & he knows that he is not going through this test alone; G-d is right there with him, supporting him all the way.

Yitzchak, too, must have been plagued by intense doubt and confusion: "Why is my father doing this? Does he not love me? Did I do something wrong, terribly wrong that deserves my execution?" Yet Yitzchak – 37 years old and no less a man of faith than his father – continues on the path. He, too, knows & feels that he has not been abandoned; that he, too, does not walk alone. And that gives him immense strength.

And so the phrase appears twice - at the key moment when Avraham readies the sacrifice, and just after Yitzchak utters the only words he says in this whole episode - because each partner in this test needs his own, personal reassurance that, come what may, G-d will be with him each & every moment of his life.

Avinu She'ba'shamayim, Father in Heaven: There are times when we feel that we, too, can’t go on, times when we feel alone, uncertain, deserted, cast adrift. We don’t know why we have been given our specific tests. We falter, we begin to despair. But then, somehow, we sense that you are right there next to use, prodding us on, encouraging us, helping us. And then we know that as long as we are together, we will make it.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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