10/25/2007

Rashbam on the Akeidah

There are some incredible Rashbam's on this week's parsha that ly in the face of conventional Jewish understanding of various episodes. The first is on the Akedah. He understands it as a punishment for Avraham's treaty with Avimelech, based on the opening words of 'achar ha-devarim ha-eileh'. Inheriting the land, as God promised Avraham, would preclude entering into such treaties. It's as if God is saying to Avraham, "You're so confident in the treaties that you make, and how they'll last for generations? Go kill your kid. Let's see how much these treaties will help you!"

[This idea is chilling, given the context of current peace negotiations.]

He also gives an alternative translation of the word 'nisah' - commonly understood as 'tested' - where he takes it to mean 'tormented', but not in the sense of physical torture, but in the sense of a completely knocking the wind out of someone's sails, a complete reversal of expectations.
Rashbam even gives a French translation of this word (which resonates well with me particularly) - CONTRAIRE.
I think that this approach can be broadened, that 'achar ha-devarim ha-eileh' isn't just going on the treaty with Avimelech, but on Avraham's whole life. Avraham, the guy who made the connection between belief in God and pursuit of that which is good and just, that God is about morality and truth and justice, is here confronted by a commandment which undermines everything he thought and taught about God. Human sacrifice? Our God? It's truly a torment, and truly 'contrary' to everything Avraham had presumed about God.
It's as if to say, "Avreiml, you're a good guy, and you're doing great things. But in case you think that you've got Me figured out, that I'm the God of This or the God of That, I want you to go ahead and do the most evil and contrary thing that you could ever imagine."
Like the Kotzker said, if one can figure God out, then what does one need Him for?

[I posted this on a different blog a while back, but never on this site.]

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