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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Binding of Isaac in 5 parts

This week's parashah/portion is Va'yera (Bereshit/Genesis 18:1 – 22:26). In this parashah we read of the Akeidah, or binding, of Isaac/Yitzhak. After casting out his son Ishmael and his mother Hagar earlier in the chapter, Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac. He takes Isaac, along with 2 servant boys, to Mt. Moriah. Leaving the two servants at the foot of the mountain, Abraham and Isaac ascend to the summit. There, Isaac, whom the rabbis claim was 37 years old, allows himself to be bound to the altar in order to be sacrificed. At the moment when Abraham raises the knife, an angel of God calls out to him to stop and instructs him to instead sacrifice a ram that God has provided and who is stuck in a thicket by his horns.

Abraham unties Isaac and then sacrifices the ram. There is no mention of Isaac when this sacrifice takes place and the Torah says that Abraham and his servants return to Beersheba alone – without Isaac. Abraham and Isaac never see each other again. The next time Isaac sees his father is when he and Ishmael reunite in order to bury him.

Throughout this narrative, Sarah is never mentioned. We have no idea if she was even aware of what was happening. However, the next parashah begins with Sarah's death. For that reason the rabbis connected Sarah's death to the Akeidah, surmising in some commentaries, that her belief that Yitzhak had been killed (or joy over the fact when she found out that he had not) caused her death.

The following are four poems that I have written in the voices of Isaac, Sarah, Abraham and God. Then I have followed this with my personal reaction to this story of terror.

Due to the fact that blogspot will only publish in one column (I usually format it in 2 columns) this post is extremely long. But I did not want to separate the poems from one another. I hope you enjoy and learn from them. I would LOVE for you to post or write to me with your thought or reactions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Steven

PS I also use specific spacing and margins when writing my poems, but blogspots shifts everything so that it is left justified and I can't seem to do anything about it.

I. Bound Faith

Yitzhak
my name
Yitzhak
a verb
he shall laugh
but I cannot laugh
the name itself is a cruel joke
perhaps
they made a mistake
maybe
it should have been Yitz'ak
he shall cry out
no even that is not right
for I am not a verb
I do not act
I simply am
I know not
what

let father decide
let mother decide
let God decide
let me decide
now there's something
that makes me laugh
but there is
no one
to hear
I am
alone
I have left
father's house
though I carry it with me
I have left
my birthplace
Perhaps now I can finally be born
I have left
my land - my piece of earth
never really mine

Only one piece of earth truly belongs
to me
the place
where I was bound
the place
where I was willing
to give up
my life
my self
for my father
for his God
my God
the place
where I was prepared
to act
to finally become
a verb
a man
by doing
nothing

inactive action
courageous folly
that place
that time
that moment
I became
human
I became
one
with God father mother brother self everything
I realized
in that moment
I am alone
not alone
not bound
to the altar of fire
bound
to the altar of faith
bound faith
not
blind faith

faith
in the One
who gave me life
upon that altar
at the moment
when I
surrendered
I chose
to act
to do
to make a difference
to live
by allowing my
self
to die

I pray
that I can continue to act
to make
a difference
to become
a blessing

now
I begin
my journey
to the place
not shown to me
to the place
I will find on my own
step by step
perhaps that is the point
each step of the journey is
the destination
the place
the Divine
where we are meant
to be
to live
each place
the end and the beginning
each place
we can bind ourselves
to the One the All Existence

that is the essence of
the sacrifice
the journey
of being
alive


II. A Mother's Trial


why
did I let him go
how
could I not

my son
my only one
whom I love
more than life itself
is no more

I could not
look
I could only
hear
sitting
in my tent
surrounded
by God’s light
afraid
I would fail
the test
rise up
from my place
run to
him
embrace
him
prevent
him
from going
growing
living

I
did not

I
passed the test
I
kept my screams
tears
fear
self
hidden inside
I let
him
leave
alone
with his father
knowing that only one would return


the only way to fulfill God's promise
was to let him go
into the wilderness
from where we came
trusting in God
trusting in Abraham
trusting the voice in my soul
torn from my body
the moment I could no longer
hear his voice
see his face
feel his touch
the moment I realized
he was no longer
mine
as he should not be

perhaps now
he will become
who he was meant
to be
Yitzhak
a child of laughter

I remember
my laughter
when told I would give birth
Abraham's laughter
incredulity or joy or both
Yitzhak's laughter
a memory
a shadow
a childhood long ago cut short
the days before he realized
he was not
to be
like other children
the days before my fear jealousy hatred
masquerading as love
tore away his brother from him
the only one who truly made him feel
not alone

perhaps now he will
laugh again
live again
fulfill the promise
create a people
as numerous as the stars in the sky
the sands on the shore
shining brightly with the faith of
his father
able to shift like
his mother
with ebb and flow
constantly changing impermanence
of a life
built on hopes and dreams
that never turn out
as we imagine

I do not know
I can only pray
this shall come to pass

Now
I am alone
sitting in my tent
only God's light shining above me
that is more than enough
these days have been longer than any other
no
not a day
one night lasting an eternity
the sun remained in hiding
never rising never setting
only the darkness of the last night

in the distance I can see
three figures approach
two nameless servant boys
I do not know
nor do I care to
a man with whom I have shared
what seems 127 life times
bent over with sorrow and age
he too has passed his test


that is all
I see
no one else
that is enough
it is done
nothing more to do
but breathe in
and wait
for God to descend
and take my soulbreath
the part that is not with Yitzhak
back to its source
where it belongs
where one day it will be reunited
with the soul that came into the world through me
and filled me with laughter
joy
life
blessing
and who I pray will now do so for those who are yet to come

I am ready
to die
to be reborn
to wait
to see
what comes next
for him
for me
for him
for us all


III. After the Ram


The slaughter was easier
Than I had imagined
The sacrifice was not
What I had thought
Or was it

I did not need to kill him
Instead
I let die that part of him
Within me

The ram
trapped in the thicket
By its horns
A father
Trapped in the moment
By his fear and joy
A son
Set free at last
By the one
Who had kept him bound
All those years

I saw the ram
I knew what I must do
As if in a dream
I untied the boy
Looked at him
He turned away
I turned my back
Knowing
I would never see him
Again

I took my time
Did not want to turn and see
The inevitable
What I finally saw
Nothing
No one
He was gone

The ram struggled to be free
I struggled to let go
I bound the ram
I saw Yitzhak’s face
I slaughtered the ram
I saw my tears
I burned him on the altar
I saw God’s smile
I turned to return home
I saw Sarah’s scream
And I knew
The journey
Was over
The journey
Had just begun

Yitzhak
May you laugh
I had only to slaughter
A ram
Had only to sacrifice
Our relationship

I had
No choice
But to choose
This path
Now
We are each
On our own journeys
Destinations
Unknown
Yet the same

As I walk down the mountain
To return
To some where
I feel some thing
In my hand

I look down
I see
A horn
A reminder
Of what happened
And what did not
Of my test
And his
And hers

I still have it
Today
I sound it
To remember
That day
That moment
All that I lost then
All that I have now
Soon to be lost
As everything is

After the ram
Nothing was the same
Before the ram
Nothing was different

So it is
Before each moment
After each moment
A life
Continuing
Trial to trial
Sacrifice to sacrifice
Joy to joy
Sorrow to sorrow
Breath to breath
Until it ends
Only to begin
Again

IV. The Trial of God


It is done
Finished
Just begun
Neither both
It continues
Why
did I test
them
me
why
could I
not
have faith
in
my creations
why
did
I
Need
To know
The answer
That remains

Unknown
Even
After the test
Is complete

My children
Showed me
The meaning
Of faith
What meaning
Have I
Shown
Them
The meaning
Of
Testing
Trying
Manipulating
No
I have
Shown them
The meaning
Of
Mercy
Forgiveness
Faith
Trust
In
The
Moment
In which
They each
Chose
What
To do
I
Tested them
Each one
Unique
The test
The subject
The response
Each one
Bears witness
To
faith
in
me
in
the part of me
within them
that is them
in our
relationship
our dependence
our unity
we are
one
I thought
I knew that
then
I realize
I Know that
Now
They
Did not desert me
I
Did not abandon them
In time
Of trial
I tested them
They turned to me
For strength
Though
They knew
I
Was
The source
Of
The suffering
What
Amazing
Creatures
I have made
To be
Separate
Yet
A part
Of me
Of all
We
Are
One
Yes
I know
I have caused pain
Son
Torn from father
Father sacrificing
Relationship with son
Mother
Alone bereft angry confused
Soon to die
To rejoin
Her source
All is
my doing
The family
Torn asunder
Yet not asunder
For within me
Within faith
They are
Have been
Will always be
Together
One
Within me
Perhaps
This is not
A consolation
Now
Perhaps
One day
It will be
Still
I know
I do not
Want
To test
Anymore
Still
I know
I must
Continue
Testing them
Testing me
One
And
The
Same
To remain
Certain
In
The only thing
That is
certain
Permanent
Reliable
Relationship
Me
You
Us
Bound
Together
Eternity
There is
No them
No other
Only
One
That
Is the answer
To the test
The
Divine human
Equation
One
I
Got it right
I believe
They did too
They still do
They always will
If they
We
I
Look within
To the soul
Our soul
And not without
To others
To find
The answer
The truth
Of
One

V. What About Me

Why
Who
What
I do not
Understand
Why
I should
Care to

They are
Foreign
Strange
Unknown

I pity them
Father
Sacrificing son and self
Mother
Sitting in silence
Enabling the plot
Son
Risking all
For what
God
Self-centered
Needing to know
The Truth
Even if
It kills
Them

Leave me alone
I do not want
To know you

Yet
I must
I do
For you are all
Me
I am all
Of you
One

No
I refuse to believe
This Truth

I would not
Sacrifice
For any God

I would not abandon
The miracle child
I never thought
Would be

I would not
Risk my life
To prove
My love

I would not
Ask
The unaskable
Of those
I claim
To
Love
To serve
My needs

Or

Would I
Have I
Will I
Again

Don’t we all

No
I refuse
To believe
With complete faith
That
This
Is

Yes
I know
With complete faith
How could it not
Be

Love
Sacrifice
Pain
Surrender
Fury
Resignation

All
Part of life
For all
For God
Our image source

We God
Do not want
to cause
pain

we still do

We God
Do not want
To know
The limits
Of
Faith love

We still do

We God
Do not want
To give up
The self
The ideal
To find
The truth
Within

We still do

We God
Do not want
To sit
Passive inactive
Allowing
The plot
To unfold
Before our eyes
Within our heart
Unable to
Stop it

We still do

Why
Must this be
Why
Can it not
Be simple
Why can
There be
No pain
No test
No sacrifice
No surrender

Why

Because

Without
Pain
Testing
Sacrifice
Surrender
Life
Would not
Be
Life

Without these
We would be
Isaac
Without laughter
Never able to leave
Home

Abraham
Staying at his tent
Welcoming guests
Never going
Beyond
Comfortable borders

Sarah
Protecting
Her precious possession
Never letting him
Go
Grow
Live

God
Not knowing
How far
Each of us
Will go
What
Each of us
Will do
To surrender
To
Divine will
To continue
The story
Of creation

Still

I do not like them
Yet
I love them
For I know
Them
I know
Their actions
Feelings
A part of
Me
I
A part of
Them

Remember
With all this
Suffering
Was
Not
A
Part
Of
The plan

Suffering
Comes
Only
When we
Deny
That everything
Everyone
Is indeed
Part
Of the plan

As long
As we realize
We are
One
We are
Part
Of something greater
Not apart
By
Our
Selves
We may experience
Pain
But suffering
Will stay
Away

Perhaps
This is
What God
What they
Are trying to teach

I still
Don’t like
The players
I still
Don’t like
The plot
But
Now
I watch it
Unfold
Within and around
I see
Their traits in me

Through the
Pain
I know
There is something
Greater
I must
Learn

Still

I wish
There were
An
Easier
Way

Maybe
Next
Year

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