Reading for the First Day of Rosh Hashanah

The Birth of Isaac

Exactly a year after the three angels visited Abraham and Sarah and delivered G‑d’s promise that a son shall be born to them (as related in Genesis 18),

G‑d remembered Sarah as He had said, and G‑d did to Sarah as He had spoken.

Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which G‑d had spoken to him.

The boy is named Yitzchak (“will laugh”), because, as Sarah declared, “G‑d has made laughter for me, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”

Abraham circumcised his son Isaac at eight days old, as G‑d had commanded him. Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

The Torah then tells of a great feast that Abraham made “on the day that Isaac was weaned.”

The Banishment of Hagar and Ishmael

Abraham already had a son, Ishmael, born 14 years earlier to Hagar, the Egyptian maid whom Sarah urged him to marry in her barren years. As had been predicted, Ishmael grows to become “a wild man, his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” Sarah, fearing Ishmael’s negative influence upon her son, urges Abraham to “banish this maidservant and her son, for the son of this maidservant shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac.”

Abraham is reluctant to do so until G‑d intervenes, telling him: “In all that Sarah says to you, hearken to her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

Abraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Be’er-Sheva.

Their water, however, runs out quickly in the desert heat, and soon Ishmael is faint with heat and thirst; Hagar

cast the child under one of the shrubs. She went off . . . the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not see the death of the child.” She sat over against him, lifted up her voice and wept.

G‑d heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of G‑d called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for G‑d has heard the voice of the lad where he is . . .”

G‑d opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; she went, filled the bottle with water and gave the lad to drink.

G‑d was with the lad; he grew, dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer. He dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

The Covenant with Abimelech

Abimelech, king of the Philistines, who had earlier kidnapped Sarah and been forced to return her unharmed, now comes seeking a covenant of peace with the Hebrew. “G‑d is with you in all that you do,” says the king. “Let us swear to each other that neither of us will show hostility to the other or the other’s offspring.”

Abraham agrees, and gives Abimelech seven sheep as a testimony to the resolution of a past controversy between them over a well that Abraham had dug. The place is thus named Be’er Sheva (“Well of the Oath” and “Well of the Seven”).

Abraham establishes an eshel (wayside inn) at Be’er Sheva, where he “called the name of the L‑rd, G‑d of the world.”

Reading for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

The Binding of Isaac

It came to pass after these things that G‑d tested Abraham. He said to him: “Abraham!”

He said: “Here I am!”

He said: “Please take your son, your only son, the one whom you love, Isaac; and go to yourself into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”

Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son, broke up the wood for the burnt offering, rose up and went to the place of which G‑d had told him.

Then, on the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Abraham said to his young men: “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac his son; he took the fire in his hand and the knife, and they went both of them together.

Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, “My father!” and he said, “Here I am, my son.”

He said: “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Abraham said: “G‑d will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And they went both of them together.

They came to the place which G‑d had told him of; Abraham built an altar there, laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

An angel of G‑d called to him out of heaven, and said: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am!”

He said: “Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do anything to him; for now I know that you do fear G‑d, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering in place of his son.

Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-Yireh (“G‑d will be revealed”); as it is said to this day: “On the mount G‑d will appear.”

The reading concludes with report of a granddaughter born to Abraham’s brother, Nachor, named Rebecca (destined to become Isaac’s wife).