I have an uncle who, unfortunately, left the tried and true paths trod upon by our holy ancestors. To his defense, his childhood was filled with tribulations: the Holocaust, being orphaned of his father, smuggled out of Europe along dangerous routes and then a sense of no-family within an orphanage setting for the rest of his young years. An ear infection that left him deaf in one ear. Things that stacked up and left him more than slightly bitter. Every now and then when in his country I visit him. And he always attacks my religiosity. Last visit he was spewing hatred at the concept of the Akayda – of the test of Avraham where he was told to sacrifice his son.
“You religious fanatic idiots,” he spat out, “the idea of even trying to do the Akayda is so like you. No love for your children, whatsoever.” I wasn’t going to argue that the crux of the test of Avraham was to comply with G-d’s request even while loving his son (The verse says, “take your son..the one you love…” which means Avraham was not to disconnect emotionally from his son, but to love him, even during this trial.)
“Ma’aseh Avos Siman La’Banim – the actions of the forefathers are signposts for the coming generations.” Anything our forefather did, as described in the Chumash, was foreshadowing and creating realities for history. The tests of Avraham were hard things he had to do for the good of the future of the world.
G-d didn’t want Yitzchok dead, that is clear, for G-d ensured Avraham didn’t harm him. Then what was the point of the whole charade? Avraham signifies Chesed-Kindness. Father Abraham was all about unconditional love and giving. He gave out free food and shelter, understanding and prayers. Yitzchak signifies Gevurah-strength. Father Isaac was all about strict adherence to G-dliness, to the black and white delineations between bad and good and judgment in strict accordance to actions. Yup, Yitzchok was very different than his father Avraham, and for the world to be a wonderful place for us future, oft-sinning, weaker generations, a precedent had to be set with Akaydas Yitzchok. This is how it works. Gevurah [Isaac] had to be bound, roped up and made constrained, by Chesed [Abraham]. In fact, the knife that they carried had to be carried only by Avraham. Strict judgment should never be the one holding a knife. Complete kindness should be the one in control.
Jews don’t lace our fingers together to pray. This is because we want to ensure the right hand and left hand, one which symbolizes strict judgment and one which symbolizes mercy, should not be joined together. Mercy, love, always must overpower judgment, not be interconnected with it.
That is the true lesson of the Akayda. That we must love our children and fellow man so much we make sure to always constrict judgment and deliver it into bondage into the hands of kindness