April 13, 2024 |

Isaac remembers his father Abraham

Parashat Vayera 5756 (11/11/95)

In memory of PM Yitzchak Rabin and Benjamin Welber.

Abraham, my father!

Isaac, your son, your only one whom you loved stands before you today, crying and confused. You, who were everything in my life, lie before me now, lifeless and cold. All of the neighbors and many regional leaders have come to pay their last respects. They have asked me to eulogize you but I do not want to. You know why, but if I were to explain the reason for my refusal, the reason itself would no longer be valid.

First and foremost, you were the great man of faith. Even in your youth in Ur Chasdim, you developed a new faith. No longer belief in the sun, the moon and the star but rather in one Creator who made them all. Most importantly, you believed in one single God, not many. Wherever you went you talked to people and taught them your new ideas. You continued your teaching when you moved with the family to Haran. Always impressing people and influencing them until the command came to start a new life in an unknown country.

You and mother went to Canaan and started all over again from the beginning explaining, teaching and bringing people closer to God. I, of course, do not remember this stage personally but many of those gathered here today can testify to it.

What I do remember is your overwhelming hospitality. Our house was always open; the tent was open to the four winds and travelers came to wash their feet, eat and drink. They spent the night and continued on their way. Always, you took the time to sit with them. Always you told them that they must not thank you for the food but rather God who created it. Sometimes, we were concerned that there would not be enough supplies left to meet the family's needs. You would not pay any attention to our concern. The guests were too important for that. You were indeed "blessed with everything" and never did we want. Your love for people, your need to meet them was so great that after God overturned Sodom and Gomorrah and travelers no longer passed that way, there was no point for you to remain in Alone Mamreh, so you moved to Beer Sheva where you planted the famous Eshel.

I was born in Beer Sheva. I grow up there in tranquility and plenty, playing with my brother Ishmael, until one day you let Mother send him and his mother away. I could not understand this. I dared not ask. I was depressed and so very alone.

Until . . .

One morning you woke me early in a hard, cold voice saying that we must go to some distant place to pray. Again, I did not understand. You always taught us that God is everywhere. Why then must we go to a particular place to pray? I couldn't find the words to ask. Three days we walked in icy silence. You did not look at me. I was frightened, scared that you would leave me in the wilderness, like Ishmael, and that I would die of thirst. Finally, I found the words and asked a question. As you answered, you wiped a tear from your eye, but looked straight ahead. I understood and was terrified.

The frightful moment came. I saw the knife above my head. My soul departed and flew to heaven. The angels were confused by its arrival since they knew that God had never planned for you to carry out the command out to the end. They knew that one of their number had already been dispatched to stop you. Quickly, they established the blessing "who brings the dead to life" and returned my soul to my body.

I couldn't return home with you; couldn't walk three more days in that dreadful silence. But were to go? I went to Ishmael, my brother. Who else would understand what it is like to be the son of Abraham? I sat with Ishmael. Slowly, I told him my story. We sat and talked until I understood that you could not have done otherwise. Your faith was so strong that even though you knew nothing of the planned end, you believed completely in the divine promise that your decedents would be a great nation and that I was your link to the future. Without knowing how, you believed that everything would have to be okay.

I still couldn't go home. That faith was terrifying; your confidence that everything would always be okay only undermined my confidence.

I stayed with Ishmael. We talked. I thought and prayed until I saw that your great faith could only exist on this earth together with your great love.

Now I was ready to return home. To live in the land, establish a family and continue the faith. Today, I hope and pray that I, and my brother Ishmael, will be able to educate future generations the full truth of Abraham, our father, that all-consuming faith can survive on this earth only when accompanied by all-consuming love.

Shoshana Michael-Zucker
Congregation Hod v'Hadar Kfar Saba, Israel


Shoshana Michael Zucker

Joined: September 27, 2007

A professional translator, wife and mother of three, I more a self-educated than a formally educated Jew. Most of my divrei torah are given in Hebrew but when I have time I do translate some.

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