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Two-Line Torah: Va'yera 5776--Did Abraham Pass or Fail?

by Howard Alpert |Oct 25, 2015|Comments
Our students’ search for a personal morality and its potential for conflict with received norms are reflected in Parshat Va'yera.
The parsha begins with Abraham challenging God in response to God’s decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “Would the Judge of all the Earth not act with Justice?” It ends with Abraham acquiescing to God’s demand that he kill his son as a sacrifice.
Commentaries read Abraham’s response regarding Sodom as reflecting a personal morality in conflict with God’s apparent judgment. His later, unquestioning acceptance of God’s will is depicted as a more mature response.
However, the text allows for an alternative perspective, raising two questions: Is Abraham the greater moral leader when he makes himself God’s partner in determining what is just, or when he accepts God’s judgment without question?  If the demand for Isaac’s sacrifice is a test of Abraham, did he pass or did he fail?

Rabbi Howard Alpert is the CEO of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

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