By Rabbi Barry Blum
“And Abraham stretched his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, Yitzhak. The angel of the Lord called out to him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham and he said, here I am. The Divine One said, Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For I know now you fear God.” (Bereshit 22:10-12)
The Torah narrative of Vayera describes a narrow rescue of the biblical Yitzhak, a result of the angel of God.
In our contemporary world, during a peaceful rally in Tel Aviv on Nov. 4, 1995, Yigal Amir shot and killed statesman Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin had taken heroic steps toward building a more peaceful relationship with the Palestinians.
Two years earlier, in September 1993 on the White House lawn, PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Rabin shook hands by signing the Olso agreement. The hesitant handshake by two sworn enemies took enormous courage. The watchful eye of President Bill Clinton offered the fortitude to reach this monumental occasion.
Rabin and Arafat may have concluded that hate would not serve to build a better society in the Middle East. This historic event may have altered and defused the age-long conflict. Now, 24 years later, there appears to be fewer conflicts and acts of violence.
The text of the Torah does not mention that Abraham and his son Isaac ever walked together following the Akedah. Maybe the text contained a hidden message that Rabin and Arafat would not be able to convince their respective people to walk together in peace. Mount Moriah, of the Akedah narrative, on the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock stands, has been the site of continual conflict throughout the ages. This religious and historic site remains a place of anguish and bloodshed between Jews and Palestinians.
We remember the 24th anniversary of Rabin’s death, as it represents a tragic commentary of continual tension, hatred and frequent bloodshed.
Rabin — a statesman, warrior, prime minister and visionary — stood the best opportunity to secure a durable peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.
“When a righteous man dies, he dies only for his generation. It is like a man who loses a pearl. Wherever it may be, it continues to be a pearl. It is lost only to its owner.” (The Talmud)
The symbolism of the shofar, the ram’s horn, supplanted the biblical Isaac in the parshat Vayera. The powerful blast of the shofar directs us to change our evil inclination, urging us to make the world a better place. The shofar should not be a symbol for war, but rather for peace.
Parshat Vayera recounts the divine intervention in rescuing the biblical Isaac from death. The Almighty One rewarded Abraham for passing his test of faith.
May we remember that Rabin’s life should not be remembered by his death, but rather his life and search for peace. He was likened to a patriarch who enabled the state of Israel to become a modern country. Rabin’s life served as a beacon of light for nearly 7 million Jews who have emigrated and settled in Israel. A vision for the future articulated after the Akedah, “Adonai-yireh, on the mount of Lord there is a vision.” (Bereshit 2:4)
May the vision of hope of the prophets be realized in our own lifetime, “Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation, and neither shall people learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
May peace triumph over violence and conflict. Amen.
Rabbi Barry Blum is the rabbi at Congregation Beth El-Ner Tamid in Broomall. The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia is proud to provide the Torah commentary for the Jewish Exponent.