This Shabbat we read Parashat Vayera, which contains both the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the Akedah, the “Binding of Isaac”.
We read the Akedah story in shul twice a year (or we would if we were not on the triennial Torah reading cycle). We read it on the second day of Rosh Hashanah as well as when it occurs in the weekly parasha. Some Orthodox siddurim contain it in the preliminary morning prayers as well. I suspect that at least part of the reason for the frequency with which we read it may be an effort to dull us to its shocking nature.
I remember the first time I heard a rabbi speak about his difficulty with the Akedah. In 1983 - 84 my student rabbi position was in Granville, Ohio, not far from Columbus, and there were no services on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. So I attended services that morning at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus and I heard Rabbi Harold Berman speak about his difficulty with the message that this reading is intended to convey.
On occasion I throw this question out to the congregation on Rosh Hashanah and invite congregants to respond. This year our congregant Bruce Levinson picked up that challenge and wrote a very thoughtful and erudite piece struggling with the meaning of the Akedah. I appreciated it so much that I have invited him to present it as a guest D’var Torah this Shabbat morning. I hope that you will attend and if so, please register in advance at:
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian