Written by 6th grader Caroline Cranman, who will become a Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat
In this week’s Parsha, Vayeira, three angels, who arrived appearing not as angels but as people, come to Abraham’s tent. Now, normally, when strangers appear at your house, you might not cook them a whole entire meal, you might not invite them in or, you might not even talk to them - but Abraham did all of that. We will get back to that in just a second.
For my Bat Mitzvah project, I am giving newspapers, old towels, and some brand new towels to the Atlanta Humane Society for the animals to have a better place to rest and sleep. These animals do not have a home and they are not welcomed into people’s homes like Abraham welcomed these angels. If you want to help like I am, please make sure to drop some towels or newspapers in the bins at AJA or at Congregation Beth Shalom to help the Atlanta Humane Society.
Now let’s get back to the story. When the angels were about to leave, they informed Abraham that when they returned the next year Sarah would have had a baby. Abraham and Sarah had wished for a baby, but they were so old they didn’t think they could have one. So when Sarah (who was listening from inside) heard what the angels had told Abraham, she laughed (and that laughing is another whole story about faith in what G-d can do). But, sure enough, the next year they had a baby boy – and named him Isaac – and they loved him. One day G-d told Abraham to go to a mountain and sacrifice his son. If someone told you to sacrifice your child, you would probably be hesitant or even defiant, but Abraham was not. If G-d wanted Abraham to do something, Abraham was going to do it. G-d wasn’t actually going to make him sacrifice his son, but Abraham did not know that. It was a test to see how loyal Abraham was to G-d.
G-d made this test hard. He said to Abraham: “Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you.” G-d wanted to see who Abraham was more loyal to, Isaac or G-d. Sure enough, Abraham chose G-d. So, the next morning Abraham saddled a donkey and took Isaac and two more men with him to travel the three days to their destination. Abraham took Isaac and they went to the spot where Isaac was going to be sacrificed. Isaac thought that they were just going to sacrifice an animal, because that was common then. He did not find out that he was the planned sacrifice until they got to the spot. While Abraham and Isaac were walking, Abraham was comforting his son and telling him everything was going to be alright. This part of the story really appeals to me: even though Abraham was likely confused on the inside and suffering himself at the assignment G-d had given him, he was taking care to comfort Isaac. My Hebrew name Nechama - means to comfort, so my awareness of this situation appeals to me because of that connection.
They finally get to the spot, and Abraham was holding up his knife, and, suddenly, an angel appeared and said “stop”. The angel explained it was all a test and that G-d wanted to see how loyal he was to him. (I am sure Isaac was happy to hear that). Abraham saw a ram in the bushes and sacrificed it instead of Isaac. I admit this story seems odd and uncomfortable – as we don’t want to, or, at least, I don’t want to think of G-d as asking someone (especially someone like Abraham who seemed like a pretty good guy) to sacrifice his child. At the same time, I like the part where Abraham welcomed visitors and provided them with food, water and rest. I also like that G-d provided Abraham and Sarah with a child they had hoped for with a home where he was loved. As as scary as the test was, Abraham was true to G-d, comforted his son in a challenging time, passed the test, and showed Isaac his love for G-d and his love for Isaac. I am sure Abraham was thanking G-d for days for not making him sacrifice his son.