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Why Didn’t Abraham Plead for His Son’s Life?

Why Didn’t Abraham Plead for His Son’s Life?



Why did Abraham protest so strongly on behalf of a handful of lowlife Sodomites, and yet submitted silently when commanded to sacrifice his own son?


This is a beautiful question. In fact, my daughter asked me this question some years ago. But then, she also told me the answer.

Take a look at the way G‑d speaks to Abraham in both instances. Concerning Sodom, G‑d informs Abraham that “the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and their sin has become very grave. I will descend now and see, whether according to the cry which has come to Me they have done; [I will wreak] destruction [upon them]” (Genesis 18:20–21).

Something similar occurs with Moses during the Golden Calf affair, when G‑d tells him, “Now leave Me alone, and My anger will be kindled against them so that I will annihilate them” (Exodus 32:10).

As Rashi puts it, was Moses holding on to G‑d, that G‑d had to say, “Leave me alone”? So Moses understood that it was his job to argue with G‑d, which he did.

Similarly, when G‑d informed Abraham of His impending judgment of Sodom, he understood what G‑d wanted of him—to argue. Otherwise, G‑d had no reason to inform him of His intended action. So argue he did.

Concerning Isaac, G‑d literally pleads with Abraham: “Please take your son . . .” (Genesis 22:2). He then understood that this was not something to argue about.

Really, it’s the same with every Jew. We have a deep relationship with G‑d. We aren’t just robots. There are times—the times of prayer—when we argue with G‑d concerning the way He runs His world. And then there are times when we need to just accept. How do we know which path is appropriate in any given situation? We know, when we are in tune with our neshamah (soul) deep inside—and the neshamah is in tune with G‑d above.

[Additionally, Abraham wanted to avert a punishment intended for the people of Sodom. The Binding of Isaac wasn’t intended as a punishment. Ostensibly it was to be a great privilege for Isaac to be sanctified as a sacrifice to G‑d.]

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Discussion (70)
November 10, 2014
Re: ambiguity and tests vs misdirection
I can see your question, and it's very interesting. I'm a little thrown off, however, by your phrase, "uncharacteristic of Hashem."

This is really the whole point. G-d is not a definable, knowable character whose actions can be predicted. If He were, what would we need Him for? As the Rebbe once said, "If G-d were only a little smarter than me, He wouldn't be my G-d."

That unknowableness is precisely what He was demanding the same from Avraham in this instance—don't allow yourself to be defined.

At any rate, this article was meant to answer a specific question, not to deal with the motive of the Akeida. Please read "The Test", which deals directly with the issues you raise. Your comments will be very welcome there as well.
Tzvi Freeman
November 10, 2014
ambiguity and tests vs misdirection
Although your derasha is beautiful, I remain unconvinced because it still seems so uncharacteristic of Hashem to mislead His servants. I agree that ambiguity (such as "Lech Lecha" go to an unspecified place) and tests (such as "Kach Nah es Bincha" and slaughter your most precious son) are perfectly understandable. I can accept Avraham negotiating with Hashem to spare Sedom because the Torah obstensively recorded Hashem's statement that it would be wrong to hide His intentions from Avraham. However, where else do we find Hashem gives a deliberately misleading command that He expects the recipient to challenge?
edison, nj
April 23, 2013
Sacrifice and what this means
Today I counseled a friend, whose son is being terribly bullied by a teacher, who refuses to see how hard he is working, and also she seems to be taking pleasure in giving him bad grades when others, feel, this is wrong, because he's a stellar student. So I have been thinking about sons, and about power and control, and how children are sacrificed, often, at the hands of others, in ways that do kill their spirit, or attempt to kill their spirit.

I think, the lessons from The Akeda, today, mean do not let anyone kill, your spirit, the joy and passion for learning, for being, the very soul that is unique and yours, and I believe, these stories are lessons in life. I do not for a moment think, G_d needed to take this boy but that G_d in thinking forward, as in a different kind of time, could see we would dialogue, continue to converse, and parse this out. It's in the fires of dialogue, and in wrestling with ethical issues, that we recreate that Divine, Moses fire.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
April 23, 2013
you said that the reason g-d told Abraham about his plans of destroying sedom was purely because he wanted Abraham to argue with hime. I qoute: "Otherwise, G‑d had no reason to inform him of His intended action." But many mefarshim say that the reason Abraham was informed was because the land was promised to him, and therefor felt that he should include Abraham in his plans. Did g-d want Abraham to argue or was he simply including him in the process? After all, it wasn't necessary for him to argue with Abraham at all. He knew what he would say, and what the outcome woul be. So why bother?
October 30, 2012
Avraham believes in G-d
Rabbi, in addition. The text says Avraham and his son were joined by servants. Avraham tells them to stay at the edge of the mountain because him and his son will go up, give an offering , and return (plural). Also, when Yitz7ak asks him where is the ram, Avraham replies that G-d will take care of that. Could it be that Avraham was the one trusting G-d not just G-d trusting Avraham? Maybe this is faith, to know that though it may seem so sometimes, G-d could never hurt us for real. Avraham believed in his heart until the last moment that G-d will stop him and they would return together at the foot of the mountain. Judaism is a two way relationship:)
Odelia Miriam Drugu
December 6, 2011
turning back
I turn back often, to look down the years, down the threads of story, that do deeply connect us, and I think about all threads, and also about sewing and sowing, as seeds are sown. I know that if one throws out enough seeds, some do sprout, especially when nourished, by water, by sun and soil. And I am thinking that those among us who toss those seeds or pearls of wisdom, about LOVE itself, cannot fail, at some or any level, to achieve what "stems" from this, namely beauty, the rose itself, as a rose by any other name, is still, a rose.

I think of the beautiful purple rose cabbages this season in this respect. For me, also roses. And all that is whorled tightly, and spirals. I think within life, there is everywhere that spiral and what spirals out, has got to be, a message. Make it a spell. Make it spell LOVE.

Lately a shape known as the TORUS is getting some play. And I say, doesn't that word itself, resemble our word, Torah?

Thank You Bonnie, and Anonymous as always
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
December 6, 2011
Channah - Dec 5 , 2011
And thank you C for your reminder. Believe it or not all these posts are making valuable points, especially on how to think versus what to think. Sometimes we lose sight of this precious gift, how to think, when we get caught up in preaching what to think.

Your post is a reminder to have an open mind versus a closed mind, to try to be inclusive rather than ' woodenly ' ( wow at that descriptor ) exclusive.
December 6, 2011
Ruth Housman
Demands that are cruel and unconsicionable are not unusual. Sometimes, you wonder if any other kind does exist.

Take your stand and do not budge. Do as you know to be right and good. Do not turn back. That is what they are really make you turn back.
December 6, 2011
Ruth Housman
I have no problem with questions. I am full of them and probably always will be.

But the fewer the words...the better.

There are those about you who do all they can to turn you back.
I have found that questions can be an opportunity for some to use as a tool ... or mis-direction against the person. They can lead one into foolishness.

Only trust the L-rd. Not even those with whom you broke bread are to be trusted.
Listen to David. He's been there.
December 5, 2011
Sarah's death - Dec 5, 2011 by S in GA
How did Sarah die ?

Isaac was 37 years old at the Akeda.

Sarah did not know about the Akeda ahead of time. When she caught wind of it after and thought that Isaac was sacrificed, she had a heart attack. That's the connection as i understand it.