Yesterday morning in synagogues all throughout the world, the story of the binding of Isaac was read aloud from the Torah scroll. In this famous story, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham seems ready to go through with it, and in the very last moment, an angel of God calls out to Abraham, telling him “don’t do it!”
This week, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, tens of thousands of runners, including me, were preparing to come to New York to run the New York City Marathon. Even after the storm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the race would go on. Having gone through months of training, I felt that my commitment to my marathon regimen was probably similar to Abraham’s zelous obedience to God. (Actually I probably was not quite as committed – as I did dabble in some junk food eating while Abraham didn’t dabble in idol worship.) Anyway, as the day got closer and the race was still going to happen as scheduled, I got a very strong feeling that I shouldn’t do the race. It simply didn’t feel right to run after all the devastation that had taken place. Amazingly thousands of runners had that same feeling and ultimately after immense pressure from politicians and citizens, the Marathon was cancelled.
I have no doubt that every runner had that question of “should I run?” go through their minds just as Abraham probably asked himself, “should I be doing this?” And I bet each and every runner wished that a voice would come down telling them what to do just as Abraham had an angel come tell him what to do.
In light of this marathon experience, I look at the binding of Isaac story in a new way. My new hero of the story is the angel. That angel is brave for speaking his mind to a man that is clearly torn about what to do. In today’s world, we don’t have angels telling us what to do, so I think what I’ve learned is we have to play the role of the angel. Sometimes we need to be the ones to say, “what you’re doing just doesn’t seem right.”
To be honest I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone else what they should do considering how torn I was. But I think that if people voice their own opinions and share with others what they plan to do in difficult situations, it certainly helps others in their process of deciding and I think that in this case it led to the right choice.
Once again, I am amazed at the parallels between the sports world and the things I’m studying in school.
Wishing much healing and recovery to all those affected by the storm.
-The Rabbi In Training