Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week Suzanne King, chair of Eastbourne Liberal Jewish community, selects: The Binding of Isaac.

There was always one story that galvanised me as a child, through the prism of childhood logic.

It’s the story of the binding of Isaac.

It stirred fear, admiration, confusion and provoked some anxiety. I sat as an eight-year-old listening to the reading of the translated text of how Abraham and Sarah had longed for a child.

I briefly wondered why they didn’t think to perhaps adopt or foster a child like one of our neighbours had done but, of course, that wasn’t the object of the story.

I recall being startled that the first Jew, our patriarch Abraham, renowned for his hospitality to strangers, actually wanted to sacrifice his own special and long-awaited son, because God wanted him to do so!

I couldn’t fathom why, what was the point of killing his son? What had Isaac done to deserve such a fate and why would God want something so terrible to happen to good people?

Metaphors and allegory were beyond my eight-year-old comprehension. It challenged me to ask whether Abraham was a good father or simply a very devout and a pious man who followed God’s requests without question – a parallel that many would no doubt recognise today: “I was following orders.”

This is a text that is rich, multi-faceted and imbued with intrigue. It has inspired musicians, artists, opera and writers as well as students of theology. It still holds mystery and questions that intrigue as

I make my own journey. As I unpack the porte-manteau on the desert island, I hear a voice say: “Hineini [here I am]”…