The Akedah – Reconciling Contradictions

At the end of the Parsha Veyaira we find the story of the Akedah. Regarding the Akedah, the Torah recounts that G-d told Avraham to take his son Yitzchak to a place which He will reveal afterwards, and to offer up Yitzchak as a burnt offering to G-d. They journeyed together with Yishmael and Eliezer, as Chazal (the sages) tell us, and they arrived to the place where they have to part, where Avraham and Yitzchak will continue their journey by themselves to Mount Moriah where the Akedah will take place.

 

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Then Avraham said to Eliezer and Yishmael something strange which made me sit up and ponder. He told them to wait there with the donkey, and he and Yitzchak will continue to Mount Moriah where they will worship G-d, and then afterwards return. “VeNashuvah Aleichem”, in the plural, we shall return.

Now, I know people alive today that are 100% meticulous not to say anything which is untrue. I mean what I say, even though I imagine that some of my readers may not believe me. 100% meticulous.

Given that, if we go back in time, imagine the Vilna Gaon, imagine the Rambam, imagine Rav Saadia Gaon, all the more so the Talmudic sages, or going back Anshei Kenesses Hagadola. Avraham Avinu! How could he say such a thing!? He was planning on shechting Yitzchak as a korban to the Ribono Shel Olam! How can he say “Venashuvah Aleichem”?

Rashi says there that Avraham said a prophecy that they will both return. The simple understanding in Rashi is like I saw some of the commentators on Rashi learn, the Maskil LeDovid and the Be’er Besadeh, in the sense that “he said but he didn’t know what he said”. I find that astounding, as we are talking about someone about whom with the Bris Mila Avraham gained full control over all of his limbs, in particular his mouth, like Rashi says in last week’s parsha.

I would propose to understand the words of Rashi in a different light. Rashi just before, on the verse “ad ko”, Rashi brings a Medrash that Avraham said that he wants to go and see what’s going to be with the promise that G-d told him, “Ko yeiheyeh zaracha” which is a promise that Yitzchak will have many descendants. The Maskil LeDovid takes this also in the sense of “he said, but he didn’t know what he said.”

I propose to understand that Avraham Avinu knew exactly what he said. He received a promise that Yitzchak Avinu would have plenty of offspring. Avraham had no doubts about this, that this was going to be fulfilled. He also had a clear prophecy that he was to offer up Yitzchak as a burnt offering to G-d, and he was fully ready willing and able to fulfill this Divine Command.

How does Avraham resolve this apparent contradiction? I propose to understand that it didn’t concern him in the least. He had a crystal clear prophecy to go and shecht his son, and he had a crystal clear prophecy that Yitzchak would have a lot of offspring, therefore he was sure that they would both return. How? Don’t know.

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Boruch Rappaport

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