Here comes a New Year, Rosh Hashanah 5772. The Torah calls Rosh Hashanah “yom truah” — the day of the Shofar call. A sound we look forward to all year long.
For all my readers, I hope and pray that this will be a good year.
Whatever High Holiday services you attend, you will hear some classic passages from the Torah. Of all of them, I believe the Akeyda — the story of the sacrifice of Isaac — is the most dramatic. We see our father Abraham tested. We watch him pass the test. We dread the moment when Isaac could lose his life. And then we hear the Voice from on high stopping Abraham when he is holding the knife in his hand. “Do not put your hand on the boy, do nothing to him!”
What about Isaac? Can we imagine the thoughts going through his mind as his father binds him on the altar, on top of the firewood?
The Torah gives us an inkling of the depth of Isaacs faith. When they first arrive at Mount Moriah, they dismount from their donkeys. Abraham takes the firewood and puts it on Isaacs shoulder while he carries the flame and the knife. “And the two of them walked together.”
On the way, Isaac asks where is the lamb for the offering — he sees all the other requirements but no animal to sacrifice. Abraham cannot give him a straight answer, so he just says “G0d will provide the lamb.” And again we read, “The two of them walked together.”
That refrain is profound. No more needs to be said between them. The two of them walk together in silence. The Torah narrative does not say as much, but the fact that Isaac does not pursue the point, added to Abrahams putting him off, tells us that Isaac knows the real answer. Whats more, he accepts it. Human sacrifice was common in his time, and young Isaac fully expects to give up his life for G0d, and probably to receive some mysterious eternal reward for his self-sacrifice. He walked with his father; he felt his fathers feelings. He shares them. Yes, the two of them walked together, on a grim and fatal errand.
But Isaac is spared. He lives to propagate a race that still looks back to him as ending the heathen practice of parents committing sacred murder of their children. When Abraham is stopped, he looks around and sees a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. In gratitude for his sons life, he grabs the ram and offers it as a sacrifice instead of Isaac.
So the ram caught by his horns becomes a symbol of freedom from human sacrifice. And the horn that caught that ram becomes our shofar. Our prayerbook calls us to “blow the great shofar for our freedom!” The
New Year should find parents and children joined in the happy experience of “Yom Truah,” the day of the shofar call, the call to freedom, the call to family unity and trust.
Have a Shanah Tovah, a really good year.