This Torah portion, one of our most powerful, famous and dramatic, covers a wide range of emotions and events. It is almost a mini text-book on family dynamics. From the first verses and the proof texts for the mitzvah of hospitality, to the rivalries between Sarah and Hagar, Isaac, Ishmael and the triangulation of Abraham, to the awesome story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22); we are put through a ringer of human emotion. Thousands of comments and books have been written on this portion and still its’ drama calls to us.
One thing came to me as I was looking at this for our weekly review. The idea of the “binding”. The story in 22 review the so-called “binding” of Isaac. What does it mean to be bound? We usually consider it to be a limitation. Some commentators see the idea of being bound as a means to being free, as in the fact that society and individuals must accept certain limits so that a society can function. You just cannot do what you wish whenever you wish.
However, one other item crept into my head. It reflects a conversation that takes place every time we engage a group. As we get older, and if we are given the gift of time, we usually must adjust to certain “natural” limitations. These “losses” may be slight or may be huge. We may not walk as well as we used to. We may not see as well as we used to. We may have to deal with chronic conditions or fit that chemo into how we live. We may be “bound” by “losses” that are imposed by our own longevity or by the after effect of illness. However, we live. And that is a message. How we “choose” to adapt to these losses in many ways, determine the type of life and person we become.
We know people who choose, for a variety of reasons, to withdraw from life and see these losses as binding them to isolation. We know people who, despite these losses, choose to live life and incorporate these losses into their life. Again, I think one of the messages that our tradition sends us is that how and what we choose creates the life we live. We can choose to be “bound” by these losses or choose to see them as part of life itself and move forward. Again, that “choice”is in our hands.
Rabbi Richard F Address