Haftarah: Melachim Bet 4:1-23 (Sefaradi) | Melachim Bet 4:1-37 (Ashkenazi and Teimani)
[על-התורה] הפטרה: מלכים ב ד א-כג (ספרדים) | מלכים ב ד א-לז (אשכנזים ותימנים) | מב א-טז (תימנים)
- The Three Guests
- Sarah’s Laugh
- Sodom and Amora (Gomorrah)
- The Drunkenness of Lot
- “She’s my sister” (Part 2)
- The Birth of Yitzchak
- The Casting Out of Hagar and Yishmael
- The Pact of Be’er Sheva
- The Akeidah
- A Growing Family
- Haftarah Summary – וְאִשָּׁה אַחַת
The opening of Parashat Vayera is densely packed. Here’s what we know:
- Hashem appears (וַיֵּרָא) to Avraham. In many places throughout Chumash, this particular verb (y-r-a, ירא) is used to express contact or with or communication from the Divine;1
- It occurs at Elonei Mamre (אֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא – the terebinths of Mamre, a terebinth being a type of tree and Mamre being the proper name of the person to whom the clump of trees belongs),2 where we last left Avraham; notably, Avraham is not yet a landholder in Eretz Yisrael;
- It’s during daylight, just as the day starts to grow hot (כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם), painting for us an unusually vivid scene;3
- Avraham is sitting at the opening of his tent (וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל), an idyllic image.4
The Three Guests
When Avraham looks up he sees three figures (שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים). These, Rashi explains, are Hashem’s messengers, i.e. angels. Rashi points out that since angels are only entrusted with a single mission,5 each of the three was there for a separate purpose: one to announce to Sarah that she was to give birth to Yitzchak, a second to overturn Sodom, and a third to heal Avraham (and, one this mission is completed, to rescue Lot).
Avraham runs to greet the three and offer them hospitality, a type of generosity associated closely with him. He washes their feet, offers them shelter, and presents them with choice foods (freshly made bread,6 meat, and butter).7
The messenger tasked with telling Avraham and Sarah that this time next year they will be blessed with a son does so. Sarah, inside the tent, laughs to herself on account of her and Avraham’s advanced age (וַתִּצְחַק שָׂרָה בְּקִרְבָּהּ לֵאמֹר אַחֲרֵי בְלֹתִי הָיְתָה לִּי עֶדְנָה וַאדֹנִי זָקֵן). Previously in Parashat Lech Lecha, Avraham himself laughed at the idea that Sarah would be the mother of great nations. But here Hashem appears to reprimand Sarah, asking:
וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל אַבְרָהָם לָמָּה זֶּה צָחֲקָה שָׂרָה לֵאמֹר הַאַף אֻמְנָם אֵלֵד וַאֲנִי זָקַנְתִּי: הֲיִפָּלֵא מֵה’ דָּבָר לַמּוֹעֵד אָשׁוּב אֵלֶיךָ כָּעֵת חַיָּה וּלְשָׂרָה בֵן: וַתְּכַחֵשׁ שָׂרָה לֵאמֹר לֹא צָחַקְתִּי כִּי יָרֵאָה וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא כִּי צָחָקְתְּ
Then Hashem said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, old as I am?’ Is anything too wondrous for Hashem? I will return to you at the same season next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was frightened. Came the reply, “You did laugh.”Bereshit 18:13-15
The episode ends here, continuing on to the fate of evil Sodom.
Sodom and Amora (Gomorrah)
Hashem decides not to conceal from Avraham that he intends to wipe out Sodom and Amora, given that He has promised the Land to Avraham’s descendants, stating:
כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ ה’ לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא ה’ עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלָיו
For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of Hashem by doing what is just and right, in order that Hashem may bring about for Avraham what has been promised him.Bereshit 18:19
But, having heard the enormous outcry of Sodom and Amora (זַעֲקַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה כִּי רָבָּה), Hashem’s messenger is tasked with investigating. Avraham, standing before Hashem, makes the following wager:
וַיִּגַּשׁ אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמַר הַאַף תִּסְפֶּה צַדִּיק עִם רָשָׁע: אוּלַי יֵשׁ חֲמִשִּׁים צַדִּיקִם בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר הַאַף תִּסְפֶּה וְלֹא תִשָּׂא לַמָּקוֹם לְמַעַן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבָּהּ: חָלִלָה לְּךָ מֵעֲשֹׂת כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְהָמִית צַדִּיק עִם רָשָׁע וְהָיָה כַצַּדִּיק כָּרָשָׁע חָלִלָה לָּךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל הָאָרֶץ לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט:
Avraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty? What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”Bereshit 18:23-25
Hashem agrees that if fifty innocent people should be found in Sodom, He will refrain from wiping out the city. Noting that he is “but dust and ashes” (וְאָנֹכִי עָפָר וָאֵפֶר), Avraham continues the wager, asking if Hashem will spare Sodom on account of forty innocent people, then thirty, then twenty, and finally just ten. Hashem agrees that on account of ten, he will refrain from destruction. Hashem finishes speaking and Avraham “returns to his place” (שָׁב לִמְקֹמוֹ).
When the two remaining messengers arrive in Sodom, it is evening. They encounter Lot, who is sitting at the city gate. In the manner of Avraham, offers the newcomers hospitality—in fact, urges it, even though they insist on staying in the town square. The angels agree and come with Lot to his house.
After Lot’s feast, but before they lie down to sleep (or rather appear to sleep), literally the entirety of Sodom masses inauspiciously at Lot’s door (וְאַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר אַנְשֵׁי סְדֹם נָסַבּוּ עַל הַבַּיִת מִנַּעַר וְעַד זָקֵן כָּל הָעָם מִקָּצֶה). The townspeople shout to Lot to let them “know” (וְנֵדְעָה) the two visitors, a common Biblical expression for sexual intercourse.8 Lot begs the townspeople to leave the strangers alone, but the story takes a dark turn here: instead, Lot suggests that the townspeople have their way with his two younger daughters. The mob, however, doesn’t accept Lot’s awful suggestion, moving to assault him instead, calling him an alien and newcomer himself and attempting to break down his front door.
Fortunately, the angels stay their hands, pulling Lot into safety, shutting the door, and striking the townspeople blind. They inform Lot that he should gather all his family members and leave, because they are about to destroy Sodom on account of its evident evilness. He duly warns his sons-in-law who have married his older daughters,9 but they think he’s joking. Their reluctance causes Lot to delay leaving Sodom, but the angels yank him by the hands, along with his wife and two younger daughters, and take them out of the city. They instruct Lot to flee for his life (הִמָּלֵט עַל נַפְשֶׁךָ) and not to so much as look back (אַל תַּבִּיט אַחֲרֶיךָ).
Curiously, Lot stops to bargain with the angels. He suggests that he’ll die in the hills and asks them to allow him to settle in Zoar, one of the small cities of the plain. The angels agree not to destroy Zoar and wait until Lot enters the city safely.
The sun rises as Lot reaches Zoar and Hashem causes fire and brimstone (גָּפְרִית וָאֵשׁ)10 to rain down on Sodom and Amora, annihilating the entire plain. Lot’s wife, however, fails to heed the command to not look back: glancing behind her, she turns into a pillar of salt.
Early the next morning, Avraham goes to the place where G-d appeared to him and sees smoke rising over the destroyed cities of the plain “like the smoke of a kiln” (כְּקִיטֹר הַכִּבְשָׁן). We are told that Lot was saved specifically because of Avraham’s merit.
The Drunkenness of Lot
Despite having been apprehensive about dwelling in the hills earlier, now, seeing what Hashem did to nearby Sodom and Amora, Lot takes to the hills with his remaining two daughters. There the three live in a cave, where, Midrash tells us, the daughters are under the impression that the entire earth has been wiped out again, like what happened in Noach’s time with the great flood.11
Thinking that the three of them are humanity’s last great hope, the daughters hatch an unfortunate plan to become pregnant by their aged father. They ply Lot with wine such that he is unaware of what is happening and, on two successive nights, take turns having intercourse with him. They both become pregnant. The older of the two daughters gives birth to a son whom she names Moav (Moab) and who becomes the ancestor of the Moabite people. The other daughter gives birth to a son she calls Ben-Ami, a reference to his incestuous origins, who becomes the ancestor of the Amonites. Both the Moabites and the Amonites will be encountered by Bnei Yisrael after leaving Egypt.
“She’s my sister” (Part 2)
Avraham, still landless, wanders through the Negev and settles between Kadesh (קָדֵשׁ) and Shur (שׁוּר). While living temporarily in Gerar (גְרָר), Avraham again decides to pass off Sarah as his sister instead of his wife.12 This time the duped king is Avimelech, King of Gerar.
G-d appears to Avimelech, informing him that he has taken a married woman, Sarah, as a wife and he will die on account of this. Avimelech pleads his case, noting that both Avraham and Sarah deceived him. Hashem, in a dream, tells Avimelech that he is aware of this and that’s why He did not allow Avimelech to touch Sarah. Avimelech is instructed to restore Sarah to her rightful husband; Avraham, whom Hashem calls a prophet (כִּי נָבִיא הוּא), who will then surely intercede on the king’s behalf.
Avimelech demands an explanation from Avraham for his deception, upon which Avraham tells Avimelech that Gerar is a G-dless place and he was scared for his life. Besides, Avraham adds, Sarah actually is my sister, meaning a close female relative.13 Avimelech gives Avraham many gifts as a sign of his public forgiveness and grants him the right to settle anywhere he wants in Gerar, Avimelech’s territory. Avraham then prays on behalf of Avimelech and Hashem heals him and his house from the infertility with which they had been afflicted.
The Birth of Yitzchak
Sarah indeed gives birth to a son just at the foretold time, naming him Yitzchak. Avraham circumcises Yitzchak on the eighth day of his life, as he’d been commanded. Avraham is 100 years old at the time of Yitzchak’s birth, and Sarah notes that anyone would laugh to see her nursing a child at such an old age. On the day that Yitzchak is weaned, Avraham throws a celebratory feast.
The Casting Out of Hagar and Yishmael
Sarah side-eyes Yishmael “laughing” (מְצַחֵק).14 Afraid that Yishmael will inherit Avraham along with Yitzchak, she asks Avraham to cast out Hagar and Yishmael. Distressed, Avraham is told by Hashem not to be concerned and to do as Sarah says, because his line will be through Yitzchak, although he promises that a nation will arise from Yishmael too, since he is also Avraham’s child.
Providing Hagar with bread and water, Avraham casts her out with Yishmael the next morning. When the water is used up—Rashi implies that Yishmael was sick, presumably because Yishmael is not a young child here15—Hagar resigns herself to his death, turning away so she doesn’t have to watch him die, and cries.
G-d assures Hagar that He has heard her cries and she need not fear, because Yishmael will becomes a great nation. She then lifts her eyes and realizes that there is, in fact, a spring nearby from which they can drink.
Hashem remains “with” Yishmael (וַיְהִי אֱלֹקים אֶת הַנַּעַר) as he grows into adulthood. He becomes an expert archer, living in the Wilderness of Paran (מִדְבַּר פָּארָן) with his Egyptian wife (arranged by his mother Hagar, also an Egyptian16).
The Pact of Be’er Sheva
Avimelech, King of Gerar, and his military commander, Pichol (פִּיכֹל), make a pact of peace and goodwill with Avraham, noting that he has been blessed by G-d. Avraham agrees but complains that Avimelech’s retinue have seized Avraham’s well. Avimelech, unaware, seeks to make good on the pact and the two reconcile, seven female sheep being the symbol of Avimelech’s recognition that Avraham has dug the well in question.
The well is thereafter known as Be’er Sheva, meaning “the well of the oath” (as well as “the well of the seven”). As a symbol, Avraham plants an Eshel (a type of tree that grows in desert areas, known in English as a tamarisk or tamarix), where he invokes the name of Hashem.17 Avimelech returns to Philistia, and Avraham continues to live among the Philistines for a long time.
The next section of the parsha is such a signal event in Jewish thought and history that it is known by name as the Akeidah (“the binding”) or Akeidat Yitzchak (“the binding of Isaac”). Reams of paper and seas of ink have been expended in attempting to unpack this polysemous event and its theological significance, and there is still much debate.18
The story begins “so it was after these things/words” (וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה), the word davar meaning both “thing, matter” and, more commonly in premodern Hebrew, “word, speech.” Chazal understood it in the latter sense, and assign the words to the Satan, who points out that Avraham only sacrifices on behalf of his son Yitzchak and not to Him; or else to Yishmael, who boasts to Yitzchak that he accepted circumcision knowingly at age 13.19 Hashem, we are told, then tested (נִסָּה) Avraham.20 He calls to him, and Avraham replies hineni, “here I am” (הִנֵּנִי). Every time it is spoken by a Biblical person, hineni is of signal importance, implying readiness to show up at a pivotal turning point. It is to be spoken twice more by Avraham in the course of the Akeidah, as well as by Yaakov when he is called in a vision by Hashem21 and by Moshe when Hashem calls to him out of the burning bush.22 Hashem instructs Moshe:
קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ אֶת יִצְחָק וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ
“Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering (olah) on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”Bereshit 22:2
The land of Moriah (Eretz Moriah) is none other than the future site of Yerushalayim and specifically of Beit ha-Mikdash, though Avraham doesn’t yet know this.23
Arising early the next morning (וַיַּשְׁכֵּם), Avraham sets out with Yitzchak and two servants, having prepared the wood for the offering. He tells the servants that he and Yitzchak are going to worship (וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה) and will return shortly. Yitzchak carries the firewood while Avraham takes the firestone and knife (here it has a unique name, מַּאֲכֶלֶת) and father and son walk off together (וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם יַחְדָּו).
Noticing that all has been prepared save for the offering itself, Yitzchak wonders where the sheep is going to come from. He calls out to his father, to which Avraham responds, hineni, my son (הִנֶּנִּי בְנִי). Yitzchak asks about the sheep. Avraham says: ““It is God who will see to the sheep for this burnt offering, my son” (אֱלֹקים יִרְאֶה לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעֹלָה בְּנִי). The two keep walking together.
When they reach the site G-d has specifies, Avraham builds an altar of wood and binds (וַיַּעֲקֹד, from which we get the term Akeidah) his son on top of it. Avraham raises the knife, but an angel of Hashem calls out to him. Once again, Avraham responsds with hineni. The angel instructs him not to harm Yitzchak, “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me” (כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹקים אַתָּה וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ מִמֶּנִּי). When Avraham lifts up his eyes, he sees a ram ensnared in a bush by its horns. It is the sheep that Avraham seemingly promised Yitzchak that G-d would provide. He offers it in place of his son and names the place Hashem Yireh (ה’ יִרְאֶה, “Hashem will see”).
A second time, Avraham is called by the angel of Hashem, who tells him:
וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי נְאֻם ה’ כִּי יַעַן אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידֶךָ: כִּי בָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכַחוֹל אֲשֶׁר עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו: וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ עֵקֶב :אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלִי
“By Myself I swear, Hashem declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.”Bereshit 22:16-18
All we are told after this is that Avraham returned with the two servants to Be’er Sheva, where he remained for some time. Notably absent is Yitzchak, who before walked together with his father, as well as Sarah.
As well as being read on Shabbat of Parashat Vayera, the Akeidah features as a core part of the Rosh Hashana liturgy. It is used as the Torah reading for Musaf on the second day of Rosh Hashana; before Musaf, the shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) recites an intention/tefillah known as Hineni.
A Growing Family
Again, “so it was after these things” (וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה), Avraham receives word that his family is growing: Nachor, his brother, with his wife Milcah (מִלְכָּה), has had eight sons: Utz (עוּץ), Butz (בּוּז), Kemuel (קְמוּאֵל) the father of Aram (אֲרָם, as in the Arameans), Kesed (כֶּשֶׂד), Chazo (חֲזוֹ), Pildash (פִּלְדָּשׁ), Yidlaf (יִדְלָף), and Betuel (בְּתוּאֵל). Betuel is, notably, the father of Rivka (רִבְקָה, Rebecca), Yitzchak’s future wife. (This makes Rivka Yitzchak’s cousin.) Nachor also has children with his pilegesh (concubine) Reumah (רְאוּמָה): three sons named Tevach (טֶבַח), Gacham (גַּחַם), and Tachash (תַּחַשׁ), and a daughter named Maakah (מַעֲכָה).24
Haftarah Summary – וְאִשָּׁה אַחַת
[Melachim Bet 4:1-37]
The haftarah for Vayera relates to Avraham’s story in telling of Elisha, the disciple of the prophet Eliyahu, who stood up to the mass idolatry and iniquity of his time, which was during the reign of the evil King Achav (Ahab) and his idolatrous Phoenician wife, Izevel (Jezebel). One of the three miracles performed by Elisha in the haftarah borrows the language of the angel’s missive to Sarah.
Known by its opening words, Ve-Isha Echat (“A certain woman”), the haftarah begins with the story of a recent widow left indigent. Elisha multiplies the one possession of value she owns, a jug of oil, until there is enough to sell and cover her debts.
The next miracle involves the unnamed Shunammite Woman (i.e. the woman of Shunem, Shunem being the name of a place), a figure known for her generosity and large-heartedness. She offers Elisha hospitality each time he visits Shunem, building him a room of his own (עֲלִיַּת קִיר קְטַנָּה). Elisha wants to do something to return her kindness; his assistant Gechazi (גֵּיחֲזִי), points out that, despite being wealthy and secure, the Shunammite Woman has no son and her husband is already quite elderly.
Using similar language to that of the angel speaking to Avraham and Sarah, Elisa says: “At this season next year, you will be embracing a son” (וַיֹּאמֶר לַמּוֹעֵד הַזֶּה כָּעֵת חַיָּה אתי [אַתְּ] חֹבֶקֶת בֵּן). Like Avraham and Sarah, the Shunammite woman is incredulous, but indeed bears a son just as Elisha had foretold. Sadly, the son dies suddenly. The woman seeks out Elisha, from whom this knowledge had been hidden. He performs another miracle, breathing life into the boy until he sneezes seven times and opens his eyes.
Featured image: Caravaggio, “The Sacrifice of Isaac,” 1603.
- We have already seen this happen once to Avraham in Lech Lecha; see Bereshit 12:7.
- As we are told in Bereshit 14:13.
- This has potential implications for a debate among the Mefarshim about whether Avraham was having a prophetic vision here, and if so, what part of the following events consists of the vision. The Talmud in Bava Metzia 86b, cited by Rashi on Bereshit 18:1, states that this appearance of Hashem was in order to visit the sick, reading this parsha as taking place immediately following the last, such that Avraham is recovering from his circumcision. (This is part of a long sugya that discusses this story.) Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim 2:42, takes the most radical (and controversial) position, holding that the three figures and the destruction of Sodom and Amora are all part of a prophetic vision.
- This image is again invoked in the appellation given his grandson Yaakov in Bereshit 25:27, אִישׁ תָּם יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים, in contrast to Yaakov’s brother Esav, who is a hunter.
- See Bereshit Rabba 50:2.
- As noted in Bava Metzia 87a and brought down by Rashi, Avraham never actually served the bread because the aged Sarah’s fertility returned at the moment she was kneading the dough, making her tmeah (ritually impure) and the bread unfit for serving.
- Obviously, this means that meat and milk were being served at the same meal, a seemingly odd violation of future Torah law. Although the Torah had not yet been given, Avraham, according to Mishnah Kiddushin 14:4, observed the laws of kashrut. In this case, however, he presumably thought his guests to be non-Jews, and in any case, being angels who do not have physical bodies and cannot eat anything, only appeared to eat, as noted in the same long sugya in Bava Metzia 86b, as brought down by Rashi on Bereshit 18:8. But see a different view from Tanna devei Eliyahu cited in Tosafot on Bava Metzia 86b ד”ה ננראין כאוכלין ושותין.”
- Ibn Ezra interprets the Tree of Knowledge (דעת) this way, meaning that it conferred sexual awareness on Adam and Chava; see Ibn Ezra on Bereshit 3:6. According to Bereshit Rabba 50:5, cited by Rashi on Bereshit 19:5, here the meaning is male-male intercourse specifically.
- Rashi explains that Lot had two older, married daughters as well.
- “Brimstone” is an archaic English word for sulfur used in early (Christian) Bible translations into English.
- Bereshit Rabba 51:8, cited by Rashi on Bereshit 19:31.
- The last time we saw this happen, it was when famine impelled Avraham to travel to Egypt; then, he told Paraoh that Sarah was his sister, bringing a plague on the palace when Paraoh attempted to take her as a wife.
- Rashi implies, apparently based on Bereshit 11:29 (though it’s not explicit there), that Sarah was Avraham’s deceased older brother Haran’s daughter, making her Terach’s granddaughter/Avraham’s niece, i.e. a close female relation (“sister”). Both Rashi and Ibn Ezra note that terms of family relation are not always used literally in Mikra. Rashi adds that such a marriage was perfectly valid for Bnei Noach, meaning non-Jews, which Avraham and Sarah were at the time of their marriage.
- Ibn Ezra maintains that this is just the way of young people, but Rashi suggests that “laughing” here is a euphemism for idolatry, improper sexual relations, or possibly murder.
- In Bereshit 16:16, we are told that Avraham was 86 years old when Yishmael was born, making Yishmael 14 years old at the birth of Yitzchak
- See Bereshit 16:3
- Last time this language was used to describe Avraham’s prayer was at the altar he build between Bet E-l and Ai.
- Avraham in the Akeidah was used by the Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard as the paradigmatic “knight of faith,” a model for Christian existentialism that favors the “teleological suspension of the ethical,” or ignoring one’s own sense of right and wrong in order to faithfully accede to a higher, absolute, and inconceivable ethic. Standing in contrast to this is Kant’s categorical imperative, which requires of an ethical stance that it be universal; Avraham, then, is not supposed to follow G-d’s command but to subvert it. These interpretations have come to pervade Western views of the Akeidah, but should be understood as coming out of a particular (modern, Christian) context. For more on this, see David Fried, “Reclaiming the Akeidah from Kierkegaard,” in Lehrhaus.
- Sanhedrin 89b, cited by Rashi on Bereshit 22:1.
- See Avot 5:3 on the ten trials of Avraham.
- Bereshit 46:2
- Shemot 3:4
- See Divrei ha-Yamim Bet 3:1, cited by Rashi on Bereshit 22:2.
- See Seforno on Bereshit 22:24, which assumes Maakah is female, likely on the analogy of other women named Maakah in Tanach who are clearly female. See Shmuel Bet 10:6 and following references; Melachim Alef 2:39 and following references; Melachim Bet 15:29; Divrei ha-Yamim Alef 2:48 and following.