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    Scars or sacrifice?

    Abraham & Isaac, by Jan Lievens, c.1637

    It suits Christians to speak of the Sacrifice of Isaac because it enables them to regard the story as foreshadowing the death of Jesus.

    Actually, Isaac was not sacrificed at all, and the Jewish tradition correctly gives the narrative the title of Akedat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac.

    Not many scholars, however, seem to concern themselves with the scars of Isaac. Could anyone go through the trauma that Isaac experienced without being scarred for life?

    First let us reflect that when outsiders become impatient with us for our obsession with the Holocaust and tell us to forgive and forget, they fail to recognise that we as a people are Isaac who was nearly annihilated (in fact we are in a worse situation since a third of our people were physically wiped out), and no Isaac can ever laugh without crying at the same moment.

    Treating Isaac as a symbol of the generations of the people of Israel, we apply to him what we see in ourselves – the fears that will not go away, the persecution complex, the obsession with survival, the need for children to fulfil our dreams – and the constant puzzlement at God’s role in the story.

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