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]”…