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What Kind of G‑d Would Ask You to Sacrifice Your Son?

What Kind of G‑d Would Ask You to Sacrifice Your Son?

a conversation


Skeptic: I assume even you guys have a problem with this one. G‑d testing Abraham by ordering him to sacrifice his son! And--even worse--Abraham rushing to fulfill the macabre command. Now if that's not the epitome of everything wrong with religion...

Believer: Personally, I have no problem with it. Though I admit it's not as easy for me to explain to a skeptic as, for example, the story of the Exodus.

Skeptic: You have no problem with it? G‑d not only condoning, but actually asking for the sacrifice of a human life as a demonstration of faith? If that's how you feel about it, you're no different from the suicide bombers who believe they're killing themselves and scores of innocent men, women and children because G‑d wants them to...!

Believer: Aren't you leaving something out? If you're going to read the Akeidah story, read it to the end.

Skeptic: I know. In the end Isaac isn't killed. But that's almost besides the point.

Believer: No, that is the point. Or at least a very important point of the story. After Abraham demonstrates the depth of his faith and commitment to G‑d with his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, G‑d commands Abraham, "Do not reach out you hand to the lad! Do not do anything to him!" G‑d makes it clear that He does NOT want us to offer human sacrifices to Him.

This gets repeated many times throughout the Torah. The Torah expressly forbids human sacrifice, and calls it an "abomination." We serve G‑d by living a G‑dly life and giving life to others, not by dying and killing. Judaism celebrates life and mourns death, not vice versa.

Skeptic: Ok, so let's say that G‑d wants to make the point that He's a G‑d who desires life, not death. Why does He have to go through the whole sadistic spiel of getting Abraham to truss up his beloved child like a lamb and lift the slaughtering knife over the kid's outstretched neck, before announcing, "No, never mind, I don't want you to do this"? He could simply have revealed Himself to Abraham and said: "Abraham, I know that all your neighbors are heavily into this, sacrificing their kids to their gods, but listen, that's not what I want. I want you to be the father of a people who shun this kind of thing, and teach everyone else how bad it is."

Believer: But if G‑d did only that, what would everyone have said? "Oh, that's Abraham, with his no-sacrifices-needed religion. He calls it a "life-affirming" faith, but he's just a wimp. The simple truth is that he's not as committed as we are. He's like those limousine liberals with "principles"--until it affects their own pocket or comfort."

Skeptic: Hey, I resent that.

Believer: Sorry. Seriously, do you know what Hassan Nasrallah said?

Skeptic: You mean that Hezbullah guy?

Believer: Yes. He said, "We're going to win this fight. You know why? Because the Jews want to live, and we want to die."

Skeptic: I hate to say this, but the guy has a point. They'll always have that advantage over us--that they're happy to die for what they believe in, and we're not.

Believer: No, he's wrong. If the reason we desired life and did everything in our power to avoid death was that we're a bunch self-absorbed spoiled rich kids who cannot imagine anything more important than our own puny existence, then he'd be right. But the Akeidah proves him wrong. The Akeidah shows that our commitment to life comes from a place no less powerful and absolute--indeed, far more powerful and absolute--than the suicide bomber's pursuit of death and destruction.

Abraham demonstrated that we are prepared to give our life for G‑d--that we recognize that there is a truth and reality that is greater than our own existence and we are absolutely committed to serving this higher truth. So when G‑d tells us that that's not what He wants from us--that He wants us not to die and kill for Him but to live and nurture life as His "partner in creation"--our pursuit of life is motivated and empowered by our commitment to G‑d, and is as absolute and as powerful as its source.

Skeptic: But wouldn't all this be true also if G‑d and Abraham hadn't staged their scary little show on Mount Moriah?

Believer: No, it wouldn't. It may be true in theory, but theories don't necessarily mean anything in real life. Unless Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for G‑d was actually experienced by him in the most tangible way, the first Jew could not have forged a commitment to life that's as powerful as the evildoer's worship of death.

The whole point of Judaism is not to die for G‑d, but to live for G‑d. But unless you're prepared to quite literally die for G‑d, you cannot truly live for G‑d.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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David Levant Emerson,NJ October 5, 2013

Please listen to this Two angels left the company of Abraham and one promised to return one year later, when isaac was born. Possibly this man remained there for some time. As isaac grew, this man may have watched him, and may have given Isaac information on the Akeidah that Abraham was unaware of. Abraham was advanced in age by this time, and G-D decided to establish his covenant through Isaac. Because Isaac was going to lead the Jewish people someday he must have been told by this man to trust in G-D, and no harm will befall you. When Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son he thought G-D was testing him, but he was testing them both simultaneously. To lead a Jewish people is no easy task. Therefore, Abraham and isaac were unaware of each others knowledge. They both passed their tests together,, for G-D was to establish his everlasting covenant through them. Good Shabbos. David Sanford Levant, Emerson, NJ. Reply

batya levy September 16, 2012

what kind of G-d Abraham was a man of faith.This , tested his faith in G-d. I believe he trusted G-d implicitely and was obedient. I believe he knew G-d would make a way and He did. G-d is merciful and full of compassion,but obedience is better than sacrifice. Reply

dale hurley fancy gap, va October 1, 2011

sacrafice "No, never mind, I don't want you to do this" But if G‑d did only that, what would everyone have said?
The above part of the article doesn't quite fit with Torah. Everyone would not have known as Abraham and Isaac where the only ones up there.
Someone forgets that christians belive Jesus rose from the dead so in a way it proves, not disproves Jesus. I have heard of comentators saying Abraham was willing because he knew G-d would raise Isaac from the dead.
For myself, much further study is needed but I would think that Abraham knew G-d didn't want human sacrafice and would stop it which is why he said "we" will return. Reply

Anne Kissimmee, Florida, USA September 29, 2011

Sacrifice your son? I think God was testing Abraham and Abraham was testing God. Maybe Abraham thought lets see how far God would take this. Reply

d toronto , ON September 11, 2010

i think moshe wrote the events of the akeidah in the torah so that when we read it we will remember that g-d is just and caring and he would not have avaraham sacrifice his son.

the focus of the story has in the past been on avraham's willingness to sacrifice isaac but i think that is the wrong message.

in my opinion if we are to serve god and live in the best way we can then we have to think for ourselves. the torah is to help us live better lives. a commandment to kill our children does not seem to be an improvement in our mode of living.

the focus of the akeidah in my opinion should be avraham's coming to terms with the fact that child sacrifice is not part of a torah lifestyle.

and if you think the purpose of the story is to teach that he would have killed his child for god for no reason other than the fact that god wanted it and that this would have been a good thing, then i think you will be learning the story incorrectly as have many people for a very long time. Reply

Dov Silverman Ra''anana, Israel September 8, 2010

Akeidah What say you fellow believer to the following:
I'm a religious Jew who sides ith the skeptic. On the basis that Avraham saved himself by offering his wife to sleep with the king. Tthis shows a weakness of character and failure to trust in God.
He also argues with God for the depraved people of Sodom and Gmorrah.
Why didn't he protest Isaac's sacrifice?
Even Isaac leaves his father after this event and does not return.
The son was not a child at the time of the sacrfice and it appears he did not appreciate his father's intent. Reply

d November 2, 2009

"It may be true in theory, but theories don't necessarily mean anything in real life."

so the theory that abe was actually wiling to kill issac means nothing. rather the point of the story is jews dont sacrifice to humans to g-d. thats it.

we dont have to prove that were willing to do crazy things to show off how good jews we are. not doing it is good enough. thats all the story is. a story of abe not doing something crazy. its not a proof of our potential craziness. Reply

Dan Waldron Rockford, Illinois,Winnebago November 1, 2009

Sacrificing the son! I like what Arthur Mensch posted,that Abram or Abraham tested God as well.Interesting how we are so limited to our human perception of these things.Than again especially today,do we even come close to understanding such an act of God toward a servant such as Abraham?
Perhaps God wanted to impress upon Abraham that human sacrifice is totally unnecessary,UNLESS God our Father has a reason for it.The Creator gives and He alone takes away,all else is questionable.
The LORD'S reason for asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son,takes the issue of faith to the extreme ultimate,our human intellect can only second guess unless God personally calls us to do the same.Faith not religion is what Abraham knew concerning the LORD,that faith was brought to the greatest TEST of obedience! Reply

starchaser November 1, 2009

I think He asked Abraham to sacrifice the life of the one he loved the most, n it was much harder than sacrificing his own life. Reply

Anonymous November 24, 2008

Well written. No need to die for G-d but to live for G-d. Treasure All He treasures and All He gives. Israel. Beautiful. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA November 14, 2008

Also disproving the so-called New Testiment In a round about way this disproves the claim that Jesus was the Messiah sent to die for out sins. It would hardly make sense for HaShem to stop Abraham from killing his son, and then sending His own son to die for our sins, surely His own son, if we are to believe that story as it is told, would not be sent to be sacrificed for humankind., It proves that also on the basis of the discussion between Skeptic and Believer, we don't believe in human sacrifice, it is not part of our faith, therefore, why would we kill Jesus? No logic to that, Abrahan was already shown the fallacy of human sacrifice among us, G-d forbade it Reply

Yehoshua Jerusalem, Israel November 13, 2008

Israeli parents re-enact the akeda It has been said that every Israeli parent who sends a son to the army relives the akeda. Israelis are free to move to another country where their sons would not have to do army service. Obviously, no Israeli parent wants their child killed but, on some level, they are willing to make this potential sacrifice by choosing to live in Israel. Reply

Marie Tarr Wrens, GA/U.S. November 13, 2008

very well written I like this article; It is so true, & well written.. Reply

Anonymous November 13, 2008

You forgot something In the book, "Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of the Three Faiths" by Bruce Fieler, he points out that the Rabbis in the Medieval period actually taught that Abraham
DID sacrifice Isaac.

Moreover, twice the angel Gabriel says to Abraham, "..because you did not withold your only son."

Speaking of sacrifice...why did G-d sacrifice two-thirds of European Jewry to the Nazis during WWII?

Yes, we Jews celebrate life but our history is replete with sacrifice:First Temple War (60 CE), Second Temple War (135-132 CE), Crusades, Inquisition, Chlemnitski massacre, Ha Shoah, etc.

Why does G-d permit such things against His Chosen People and PLEASE do not quote me Job.

Consider that as the Covenantal document has been revised throughout the Tanach, maybe G-d revised it to include punishment as well.

After all, He did state that after the Flood He would never again destroy ALL the earth but that doesn't mean He couldn't do parts?

Just things to consider....? Reply

Anonymous New York, NY November 13, 2008

Akedah In your recent email both the believer and the skeptic discuss whether Abraham was tested, whether G-d needed to play this cruel joke on him. G-d knew what Abraham's reaction would be and Abraham knew he wouldn't need to kill his son (He told his lads .."WE will return to you").
Only Isaac didn't know, was not a child (40),
and was rightfully angry and didn't return with his father. What a cruel Joke to play on Isaac. Why would this incident strengthen anyone's belief? Reply

sara September 20, 2008

why would g-d even ask him to do such an irrational thing like that? Reply

Dan Waldron Rockford, Illinois November 19, 2006

You to sacrifice your son? Wonderful debate and worth reading by all people on this planet. Everyone needs to know that G-d requires more than just assent on our part in believing in Him and who He is to us all.
However the Muslims believe that G-d or Allah made Abraham to attempt the altar sacrifice with Ishmael not Isaac. Since the Torah was written centuries before the Koran by Moses, truth is in the fact that historically Isaac was to be sacrificed by his father Abraham, and G-d calls Isaac the only son of Abraham, both concluding that Isaac was the son of Promise, and the only son of the union of Abraham and Sarah. Spiritual ramifications are well defined in the truth of this matter concerning Abraham's obedience to sacrifice Isaac his "only son".
Love is powerful in spite of G-d's horrific demand. There is more to this than we can see; we but only have a glimpse! Reply

JW Ashland, OR February 10, 2006

These Arguments are Lame The arguments presented in this mock argument are poor and not likely to stand up to a well-versed skeptic.

There is no doubt about the meaning of the parable here. We still don't know for sure if Abraham would've gone through with it. Compared to evil-doers, Abraham appears weak...hardly an example of good over evil. Had God wanted a really "glaring" example, there are many to choose from. For example, God could've let Abraham actually kill his son, then let us all learn from Abraham's subsequent misery or severe punishment.

This story is also a terrible example to be held up to our youth. It tends to confirm and nurture their video-game inspired belief that violence is OK, in any form, especially if you are doing it in the name of God.

The bottom line is that this is a cruel, ugly story, and a reform analysis and an acknowledgment of the story's outdated tactics is needed just as it is for many of the horrible stories in Leviticus, et al. Reply

Anonymous January 22, 2006

Wasn't Abraham a Chariot, willing to do whatever G-d tells him?

-- Abraham!
-- Here I am. What's up?
-- Go kill your son.
-- Alrighty then.

Nuh, so what's the big deal? Reply

solomon nigeria, fct January 20, 2006

it take faith for one to do that like abraham did we ask god for that kind of faith Reply

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