Shabbat shalom everyone. Although we are all gathered here on Shabbat to worship, we probably all have different ideas and beliefs about God. I would like to ask what does it mean to have blind faith in God?
My torah portion, Vayera, which includes the story of the “Akedah” or the binding of Isaac is one of the more disturbing stories of the torah. God decides to test Abraham by asking him to take his son, Isaac to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him on the top of a mountain that God points out. Abraham saddles his donkey and leaves the next morning. Once Abraham, Isaac, and the servants reach the lands around the mountain, Abraham orders the servants to stay and says “The boy and I will go up there, we will worship and we will return to you.” Then Abraham and Isaac set off. On the way to the peak, Isaac asks his father where the sheep for the offering are and Abraham says that “God will see to the sheep for his burnt offering my son.” At the peak, Abraham sets up the altar and binds Isaac to the altar. As Abraham raises the knife to carry out the sacrifice of his beloved son, an angel cries his name twice and Abraham replies “here I am.” The Angel tells Abraham to let Isaac live because it was clear that Abraham had the utmost trust and faith in God. Abraham is told to sacrifice a ram that had appeared instead and Abraham is blessed by the Angel.
So, back to my question regarding blind faith. I think blind faith means to go through with any action that someone asks you to do, no matter if you doubt it and ask questions or not. From our 21st century perspective, we could see Abraham’s willingness to carry out the sacrifice as an example of blind faith. Commentators on this story of the Akedah point out that Abraham questioned God about which son to sacrifice and that he did not leave immediately for Moriah but instead left the following morning as possible evidence of Abraham’s doubts regarding God’s commandment. Does questioning and delaying mean that Abraham did not have blind faith? I think that despite his doubts, Abraham intended to carry out God’s order to sacrifice his beloved son, Sarah’s only child, and got to the point of raising a knife over his bound son before being told to stop. That indicates a rather deep faith that God must be obeyed, no matter how awful the commandment and no matter the consequences to his family.
What are the consequences of Abraham's faith in God? One commentary suggests that Sarah died from a broken heart when she realized that Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham’s act of faith also damaged Isaac and Abraham’s relationship, as Isaac and Abraham never spoke after that. If you think about it from a child's perspective, Isaac would have probably had trust issues after the binding. Parents can damage or destroy children's trust in them by abusing them, both verbally and physically. Children’s blind faith in their parents can be compared to blind faith in God. Isaac's blind faith in Abraham could have also led to Isaac's more passive tendencies. We hear very little about Isaac in later passages of the Torah. In the Akedah story, he seems somewhat passive.
I propose that Isaac’s faith in God combined with his absolute trust in his father led to his passive acceptance of his sacrifice and later the trauma of that experience scarred him. Although Abraham and probably Isaac passed the test of faith in the story of the Akedah,the consequence of that faith was the destruction of Abraham’s immediate family. I think this Torah portion shows us that we must all think for ourselves, question authority and do what we believe is right and moral and hopefully maintain our loving family relationships.
Although my mitzvah project seems to have no connection to the story of the binding of Isaac, it does have some connection to family relationships. For my mitzvah project I played my viola for some of the frailer residents at Hebrew Senior Life and I enlisted my family to help me. As part of my performance, my brother played a Beethoven duet with me. My Mom supported me by driving us to Newbridge and helping with scheduling. We worked as a close family to bring joy to some of the most impaired residents of hebrew senior life. During my performance many people started tapping their feet or hands and smiling, and my music also caused them to remember their children learning music. It felt really enjoyable to contribute and bring joy to the old people who rarely get to experience live music. One thing I learned from my mitzvah project is how satisfying it is to use skills that i possess to benefit others.
While preparing for my Bar mitzvah I learned an important thing about Judaism. While people don't always agree with others, or some people question god and some don't everyone treats everyone with respect. In general many different opinions about Judaism are tolerated and respected. The Rabbi might not agree with multiple points in this Dvar but she still treated me with respect, and helped me write this. Tolerance is even more important today in a society growing less tolerant to different opinions
I would probably not have been a Bar mitzvah if it was not for a bunch of people. The first person I would like to thank is my mom, who did a lot of the planning behind the scenes, drove me to all my bar mitzvah tutoring and meetings with the rabbi, helped me brainstorm my d’var torah and most of all made me practice my torah portion and haftarah and pushed me to learn as much as I could. Thanks to my dad for injecting a little humor and calm into the whole proceedings. I would like to thank my tutor, Missy, for her encouraging and supportive teaching that prepared me so well for today. I would like to thank the Rabbi for helping me figure out what I wanted to say for my dvar torah and making this experience so meaningful. Thank you to my Grandmother for her support, organization and love. Thank you to my brother Lev for his support and for contributing to my mitzvah project. Thank you Gillian Rogell for helping me learn the Bach that I will play for you today. Finally, thank you to all my wonderful family and friends for sharing this special day in my life.