Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Parashat Vayera - KMTT

KMTT's Chanoch Waxman discusses by the end of the podcast episode about Parashat Vayera one of the most difficult stories of the Torah. The whole of his lecture builds up to the horribly difficult and contradicting test to Abraham's faith when he must sacrifice Isaac. This is called the 'Akedah' - I had to look this up in order to be sure that this was what Waxman was talking about.

I know a nineteenth century version of the story. A man whose responsibility it was to guard an railway interchange and direct the trains into the right tracks, one day saw his only son playing on the tracks. He then faced a dilemma. Either he should rush out and save his kid from being overrun by a train, but then he would not manage to reset the tracks in time and the incoming train would collide with the newly arrived train at the station. Or, he would set the tracks right, but then he would have no time to save his kid and it would be killed by the train. What should he do? What DID he do?

This is a choice between his duty and what is dear to him. Maybe not exactly like Abraham, who had to choose between blind obedience and what was dear to him. It was also a choice between obedience of the higher authority without question and following what to him must seem the most coherently right way (mind you, child sacrifice is absolutely forbidden in Judaism. AND God had promised Abraham offspring that would grow into a multitude).

Anyway, both Abraham and the signalman follow duty without question. The signalman prevents the collision on the train and just like Abraham he is saved from the terrible consequence of his decision. The story ends thus: it just so happened his wife was in the train at the station and she also saw the child and she had the time to save the child from the tracks. Abraham is saved in the knick of time by the authority that has sent and tested him. Listen to what Waxman has to say.
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