Posted 10 August 2012 - 10:50 AM
USU, I can't think of a more poignant and compelling retelling of the Binding of Isaac than the piyut "Et Shaarei Ratzon" (When the Gates of Acceptance). Sung during the Days of Awe by the Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, the song was written by the 12th c. poet, Yehudah ibn Abbas. The deeply personal note reflects the author's own tragedy- his son converted to Islam.
Ibn Abbas used "the Binder, the Bound, and the Altar," a recurring refrain at the end of each verse to reinforce in the worshippers the centrality of three things in this drama, Abraha, Isaac and the worship of God. This is tied to the penitent's request for God's mercy to remember the "Binder, the Bound, and the Altar," to save his children both as individuals and as a nation, but it is interesting that the poet actually pushes God's involvment to the background, focusing on Abraham's response to God's call and his love for Isaac. One of the verses contains the line, "That son which Sarah bore you/ IF your soul has become deeply attached to him/ Arise, and offer him up unto me a pure burnt offering..." The key here is the word "if." Abraham is not some stern, wild-eyed zealot rushing to shed blood at the first whisperings of his deranged mind, he is a man deeply attached to his son with all the fiber of his being, faced with a parent and spouse's worst possible nightmare. One of the verses is an incredibly powerful portrayal of the conflicting emotions Abraham and Isaac faced. "He prepared wood for the burnt offering in might and strength/ Binding Isaac as he would bind a ram/ And the light of day was darkness in their eyes/ And the multitude of his tears flowed mightily/ An eye bitterly weeping and a joyous heart/ The Binder, the Bound, and the Altar." After Isaac movingly worries about the fate of his mother, the angels are in a tumult of emotion, pleading with God to provide a substitute, "let not the world be without its moon." This is the moment when Abraham and Isaac have transcended their own selves, being transformed into men of cosmic magnitude. God stops the trial, and dismisses the angels, saying, "This is a day of merit for the children of Jerusalem/ In it I open the gates of compassion..." The piyut closes with a plea from the worshippers. "For your covenant's sake, Dweller in the Zebul, and for the oath/ Remember this for a tempest-tossed and afflicted congregation/ And hear the Tekiah, Tokeah, and Teruah/ And tell Zion that the time of redemption has come/ Yinon and Elias I am sending/ The Binder, the Bound and the Altar." Tekiah, Tokeah, and Teruah are the various blasts sounded on the shofar, which is meant to commemorate the horn of the substitute ram. Yinon is one of the Messiah's names, but it is by virtue of both Abraham and Isaac's act, and the way their descendants cherish it that helps hasten redemption. Among many of the Berber Jewish communities in Morocco, this piyut was sung when a woman went into labour. Women even called the pains of childbirth their Akedah. Can't blame them, modern medicine, including painkillers, hadn't made its way into the harsh, rugged Atlas mountains, and mortality rates were high, but of all things, why pick the Akedah to identify with? Apart from imagery of labour pains found in Jewish descriptions of the Messiah's advent, the story is about finding the faith to become more than yourself in times of the worst hardship, also it tells of how the ancestor's merit will aid their descendants in time of need, and that God will provide blessings beyond their wildest dreams to those that overcome trials.
All incredibly immoral in this enlightened day and age, right?
Calba Savua's Orchard
I assure you that it is you that is ignorant of ancient Judaism. Read the Bible instead of listening to your teachers who appose [sic] the bible. -Echo
i REALLY NEVER NEW YOU WAS A UNLEARNED PERSON. -Lucy Ann Harmon, a facebook anti-Mormon