Originally posted by LemonJello
You cannot offer me any reasons to comply with your God's directive other than prudential ones related to considerations of how he has made preparations for me to suffer and die if I fail to see sufficient reason to comply? Wow, that's pathetic. Your version of theism is a joke -- one that pretty thoroughly perverts the notions of justice, freedom, and ...[text shortened]... ctive to kill? As far as I can tell, Abraham responded inappropriately and irresponsibly.
Just as a preface, I want to point out that, so far as I am aware, there is nothing in Judaism to forbid a religious Jew from criticizing or arguing with God. As Rabbi Zalman-Shachter-Shalomi pointed out, Judaism is not a religion of submission, but of covenant. The fact that one party to the covenant holds vastly more power than the other does not preclude the other from bravely taking a stand, and there are plenty of rabbinical stories of just such encounters.
I am still exploring how that whole notion can play out within a non-dualistic framework such as mine, and the various non-dualistic expressions found in Judaism. At least at the metaphorical/allegorical level it can probably play fairly non-problematically.
My point is that just that alternative readings of the aqedah
story are not necessarily motivated by “getting God off the hook” for laying an immoral command on Abraham (or to get Abraham off the hook, for that matter).
With that said—
I am aware, off the top of my head, of at least four alternative readings of the aqedah
aside from the one most prevalent in Christianity: i.e., that Abraham (appropriately) demonstrated his faithfulness in his willingness to sacrificially kill his son. Three of these play on the fact that, in the Hebrew text, it is the (collective?) voice of ha’elohim
that commands the sacrifice, and the voice of (a messenger of) YHVH that commands Abraham to desist. One of these is deeply kabbalistic, and I won’t try to explicate it here (but it does also play on the notion that Isaac was a grown man at the time). One has to do with exercising our own moral responsibility in sorting out which “voices” in our head we should accede to (this, as I recall, was rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s; and I have my own particular spin on that one). One of them, which I came up with myself (though it is likely not original), plays on the fact that elohim
, which is most often in the Torah a kind of “royal plural” translated in the singular as “God”, also sometimes refers to “gods”—and the possibility that the definite article (ha
, in Genesis 22:1, 3 & 9) in the text can imply that Abraham listened to the wrong god(s); or perhaps the wrong religio-social pressures.
One rabbi said flatly that God tested Abraham, to see if he still had the moxy and the sense of rightness to stand up to God as he had over the destruction of Sodom—and Abraham failed the test. As you rather delicately put it, Abraham responded "inappropriately and irresponsibly". No moral person would agree to such an atrocity, even if commanded by God. In the end, God sighed and stayed Abraham’s hand. “Okay, okay: I can see that you’re faithful since you would not even withold your son—but, for God’s sake, don’t kill the boy!”
This latter view, of course, calls into question other incidences of people committing atrocities under the rubric of obeying God’s commands. (The story of the amalekites has, I think, an obvious ironical twist that prompts just such a calling-into-question; I am working on a “midrash” about that one.)
What to us has become the more conventional reading is also found among the Jewish readings, I think. But the general consensus, in my studies, is that the story is intended to put the final “kaibosh” on any kind of child sacrifice. These alternative readings may seem strange to those for whom the conventional reading is graven and grooved into their thinking—but they are not at all strange within rabbinical norms of exegesis, which deliberately allow for (even demand) multivocal readings.