An installment in the series
From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School
-For series introduction CLICK
Â By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara Dâ€™Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood
G-dâ€™s angel called to him from heaven and said â€œAvraham, Avrahamâ€™! Â Do not put forth your hand towards the youth (i.e. do not harm him) for now I know that you fear G-d as you have not withheld your only son from Me. Â Â
And today, recall with mercy the binding of Yitzchok on behalf of his offspring. Blessed are you Hashem who recollects the covenant.
-Conclusion of the Zichronos blessing- Rosh Hashanah Musaf Service
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah the Torah reading is the Akeda– The binding of Yitzchok. The Meforshim explain that this in order to evoke the merit stockpiled by the Patriarchs at this seminal event in Jewish History. The legacy of this merit will help us, their offspring, be more likely to be adjudicated favorably on this Holy Day of Judgment. Per the Talmud and Rav Saadiya Gaon the Akeda is among the reasons underpinning the Mitzvah of Shofar and, in particular, the use of a ramâ€™s horn to fulfill the Mitzvah as Avaraham ultimately sacrificed a ram in a burnt-offering as a surrogate for Yitzchok.
Conventional wisdom maintains that of the two patriarchs involved it was Avraham who played the pivotal role in earning the incalculable merit of the Akeda by withstanding daunting, superhuman challenges to his faith in a kind Creator, his lifeâ€™s work in disseminating a theology predicated on that faith, his defining characteristic of Chesed-lovingkindness in general and, in particular, his unprecedented and peerless love for Yitzchok.
Rav Gershon Henoch, the Radzyner Rebbe takes a decidedly different approach maintaining that while Yitzchok may have been relatively passive his was the predominant role in shaping the everlasting impact of the Akeda.
HaShem is omniscient and exists above and beyond time.Â As such when His spokesbeing the angel stayed Avrahams slaughtering knife at the last moment categorically admonishing him â€œDo not put forth your hand towards the youthâ€ HaShem was doing far more than providing the individual person Yitzchok with a stay of execution and a new lease on life. He was giving his Divine seal of approval on the life of Yitzchok AND on the lives of all the souls that would issue from Yitzchok.Â The life and lifework of each and every Jew, each and every human being who can be described as the offspring of Yitzchok, received HaShems imprimatur when the Divine voice reverberated through the angel and decreed â€œDo not put forth your hand towards the youthâ€ . When HaShem issued this decree the Divine Mind was perfectly and infallibly aware of all the future generations about whom Heâ€™d assured Avraham â€œIt is (only) through Yitzchok that you will gain posterityâ€(Bereshis21:12). The conception, birth and ongoing existence of every single Jew who was ever born or who will ever be born, down to the last generation, are thus firmly rooted in the Divine will.
Consider, says the Radzyner, the enormity of what this implies. Sin, ruin, hazards and stumbling blocks are inconsistent with the Divine will. So with the words â€œDo not put forth your hand towards the youthâ€ HaShem affirmed that no sin, ruin, hazards or stumbling blocks can stem from any Jew. Otherwise a strong claim of injustice, Kâ€™vyachol, could be lodged against HaShem. After all, Avraham had already given Yitzchok up.Â Yitzchok Â had been elevated as a sacrifice. He was no longer of this world.Â He was as good as dead.Â Yet HaShem, in effect, resurrected a corpse that had not yet fathered children. Had it been possible for any sin etc. to result from this future offspring why would an omniscient transcendent G-d have reinstated Yitzchoks existence?
Accordingly the concept of invoking the merit of the Akeda is about much more than a wayward child whoâ€™s run afoul of the law drawing on the deep pockets of his mega-rich and politically well-connected father to bail him out for the umpteenth time. The merit of the Akeda inheres in it demonstrating, against all apparent evidence to the contrary, that the wayward child never ran afoul of the law in the first place. Â Thundering across time and space the Akeda admonishes one and all â€œDo not put forth your hand towards the youthâ€! It is the quintessence of exoneration through merciful justice that overturns the sentence of nonexistence and validates the life of all of Yitzchokâ€™s offspring on this Holy Day of Judgment.
The Rosh Hashanah liturgy (or any other) that superficially asks HaShem to remember, recall or recollect is troubling. For the transcendent Creator memory cannot possibly mean the cognitive bridge connecting the no-longer-existent with the present as it does for His temporal creatures. Instead concludes the Radzyner, â€œrecalling with mercy the binding of Yitzchok on behalf of his offspringâ€ means that through the Akeda it is within the grasp and recollection of every Jew to gaze into the depths of his heart and the inner recesses of his memory to behold how he is rooted in, and bound up with, the Divine Will.
Adapted from Sod Yesharim Rosh HaShanah Chapter 77 (page 84)