As my first question, which I think will evoke an answer that I have heard from you before; does not the appearance of angels mean that they come from Heaven? If not, where do these emissaries of the All Mighty come from, Cleveland? If they are from Heaven are they from the souls of those that are already departed? If not, how did they come to be?
“And now, return the man's wife, because he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and [you will] live; but if you do not return [her], know that you will surely die, you and all that is yours."
As I have stated before, I always find something I earlier missed.
“And G-d said to Abraham, "Be not displeased concerning the lad and concerning your handmaid; whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac will be called your seed.”
son” or even “why”. I know that you are going to come back to me with some Midrash about Abraham knowing all along that G-d would tell him to “stand down”, but those would be the words of a mere mortal that had to defend one of the “chosen”. I guess I would not have lived up to this test of devotion and obedience because my children are the most important things in my life and I would not give them up for anything. What would you do if asked to chose between your son and the All Mighty?
finally gave her what she always wanted? Are these supposed to be the actions of the person that is our first Matriarch?
With respect to Ishmael, I never envisioned him as someone who could succeed Abraham, but to be given one bag of water and to expect him to live was an act of cruelty, yet I again state that a legitimate argument could be made that Abraham was given the word of G-d that Ishmael would survive and father his own nation. Otherwise, it was a blind act of obedience to the words of G-d that Abraham should let him go. The "partnership" between Abraham and Sarah is not in any way shown in the Torah. Sarah tells him what to do and he does it. Where is Abraham's argument that such an abandonment would mean sure death to both a mere boy Ishmael and his mother.
I could go about Sarah forever but how do you get around the plain language of Genesis 18:13 wherein it is stated "And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Is it really true that I will give birth, although I am old?" Is this the reaction of a woman that has "faith"? To me Sarah shows jealousy in any affection Abraham may have shown Ishmael or even Hagar and she could not allow this to get in the way of the devotion Abraham had to show both her and Isaac.
To me you are showing the "rabbinical response to Sarah. What do we know about Sarah other than she would go without so uch of an argument into the harem of other kings, she made it clear that Ishmael had to go and not even thanking G-d for what he gave her albeit in her "old age". What else do we know about Lot's wife other than she turned around and met her fate. For all we know she could have been a devoted wife who became too curious at the wrong time. The "rabbinical way" is to find good in those that are chosen and finding fault with those that are not.
If you want me to consider the "angle" of Isaac, I have a great deal of trouble with his mental capacity. What does Abraham think of him? In Genesis 22:5 we read the following: "And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder, and we will prostrate ourselves and return to you." If Isaac was 37 and was referred to as "the lad" how far into adulthood had Isaac ventured by that age in the eyes of his father? On top of that, regardless of what you conclude of Abraham "knowing" that G-d would intercede, if Abraham had thought about what Isaac perceived what he was about to do to Isaac, don't you think Isaac should have been scarred for life as a result of seeing what his father was going to do in order to prove his loyalty to the All Mighty? Again, I believe in the rabbinical world the "chosen" can only do good and there is always some way of justifying their acts. By the way, you did not answer my question about the choice of obeying G-d or saying I will not do such a thing to my son.
I think the Torah’s succinctness is one of its strengths. We don’t have elaborate drawn out passages; we have to work with the little that we have. When I look at Sarah and Abraham, I don’t see a relationship of love, but I do see tremendous loyalty one to another.
I could never teach that what Abraham did in banishing Ishmael was an act of cruelty, though I understand that’s a sensible reaction.
I think that acknowledging the imperfections of patriarchs and matriarchs makes sense; however, I do think they ultimately need to be elevated, not cast down. Faith is a Christian and Islamic concept that makes its way into Judaism during the medieval period. I see Sarah’s laughter as an indication of surprise, not a lack of faith.
You repudiate the “rabbinical way,” but you don’t offer any alternative save one that appears to hold the patriarchs and matriarchs in disrepute. I’ve already indicated that many Jews have rejected the rabbinical way – the Sadducees and the Karaites being the most famous. I do see moments where our rabbis – in the midst of persecution - elevated the Jew to great heights and the non-Jew was cast down, but I don’t see where we are left if we don’t affirm the basic goodness of the founders of our religion.
Once again, with respect to the Akeidah, I see you tearing down our ancestors. Now Isaac’s mental capacity is being questioned.
I do think that a relationship with G-d demands one’s entire being so that nothing intercedes between you and that love for Him. That is how I understand the Akeidah. I am glad that Abraham was the one who was compelled to make the choice between obeying Him and keeping his son alive. That was one moment in time. I don’t think that G-d would make such a demand of a person today, so I believe your question is moot.
Of course, I relish reading what you write even if I consider what you say heretical. I think we have to be able to have honest responses to the material we read, and I can see how the justifications of anything by the rabbis can become quickly tiresome.
In sum, the avot and imahot are fallible human beings like we are. They are not gods, nor are they paragons of perfection. I think in each case, however, you can find the excellence of each of them as they face the challenges that human beings encounter in life. Most importantly, they open themselves up to G-d and create a relationship with Him that we still enjoy to this day.
It is not my purpose to in some way denigrate the importance of the patriarchs and matriarchs to the point of not believing their righteousness and importance to our religion. Their shortcomings show the strength of the religion in that they are not be deemed some sort of deity. What I have tried to convey to you on many occasions is that the ability to interpret the Torah did not stop with the rabbis from the 2nd to 5th centuries or whenever the quotes often given are taken from. To me, you are just as important as far as an interpretation of what we read is concerned. You can choose the "precedent" of those that went before you, but what you have read and learned should include what you believe the circumstances to be. I am allegedly one of the "Chosen People". What has not been adequately explained to me is what I or my religious affiliation has been chosen for or for that matter why.