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    Who will be the heir?

    The story of the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) evoked a great range of Midrashim, even on the verse, “And Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass and took his two young men with him” (Gen. 22:3).

    Abraham & Isaac, by Jan Lievens, c.1637

    Who were the two young men?

    The Midrash believes them to be Abraham’s older son Ishmael and his servant Eliezer. The two of them were told to stay behind at a certain distance while Abraham and Isaac went on up the mountain.

    According to Pir’kei d’Rabbi Eliezer, there ensued a conversation as to what was likely to happen when Abraham came back from sacrificing Isaac, in particular who would now inherit the patriarch’s estate.

    Ishmael was quite sure he would inherit everything, whilst Eliezer replied, “You were driven out of your father’s home, but I was his loyal servant even before you were born. There is no question but that I will be the one to inherit!”

    But a voice came from On High and said, “Neither of you will inherit; the heir will be the rightful owner of the inheritance.”

    On one level this may be taken as a prophecy that Isaac would not be sacrificed but would come back with his father and in due course be the heir.

    On another level the story has a message that looks beyond the immediate events to the distant future.

    When other nations lay claim to the Land of Israel and assert that it is theirs, the Heavenly message is, “The Land of Israel is for the People of Israel. The inheritance is for the rightful owner!”

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