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Ap. 4-D Haftarat vaYera - AQEDAH, REVIVAL and DESCENT From The CROSS

Yitzhaq Hayut-Man 07.11.2012 17:36
Ap. 4-D  Haftarat  vaYera - AQEDAH,  REVIVAL and DESCENT From The CROSS - Bible study - Jewish-Christian - Aqedah

How does the haftarah for Parashat vaYera add the theme of revival to the Binding (Ạqedah) of Isaac, and how does the revival facilitate Jewish-Christian reconciliation.

haftarah for Parashat vaYera - Aqedah,
Revival and Descent from the Cross

The Parashah of vaYera (Gen. 18:1-22:24) abounds with events: (1) visit of the angels and announcement for the birth of Yitzḥaq, (2) Avraham’s involvement for saving the people of Sdom, (3) The destruction of Sodom and the affair of Lot and his daughters, (4) the affair of Avimelekh and Sarah, (5) Birth of Yitzḥaq and expulsion of Yishma’el, (6) the covenant of Avraham and Avimelekh and (7) the Ạqedah (Binding of Yitzḥaq). It is evident that the story of the Ạqedah is a dramatic peak, but it is also the hardest one. Very few of the Torah interpreters dared to contend with this story, and in our times there are some who criticize Abraham for his "inhumanity" and even suggest removing him from among the fathers of the Jewish People.[1]

In the context of the "Regenesis Exegesis" I have suggested an new original interpretation that finds in the Ạqedah of Yitzḥaq (literally "He who will laugh") an aspect of game playing – not only "that God did test Avraham", but also "that Yitzḥaq did test God". But I deem that also the Haftarah leads in an optimistic view of the Ạqedah and opens a direction that may help to reconcile Israel with the one who has long been removed from the Jewish People.

The Haftarah for Parahat vaYera is not from the books of the later canonical prophets as in the preceding three haftarot, but from the 2nd Book of Kings, but it is "prophetic" in as much that the story takes place among "the Children of the Prophets" and tells of "Elisha the Man of God" (Ish haElohim) (II Kings 4:1-37). The reason for the selection of this story is evidently because it has a few parallels to the story of Yitzḥaq's birth – but in a more indirect way also parallels to the story of the Ạqedah.

The Haftarah first includes a scene of a miracle that took place in the community of "the sons of the Prophets" – "now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead” and her two sons, she said, are about to be carried off her to slavery because of a debt that she cannot repay. Elisha caused her only oil flask to pour out oil that sufficed to fill many containers and by its price she was saved from her debtor and be nurtured (the later part of the chapter tells how the provisions of one man sufficed to feed a hundred people). Right after this story is the story of the Shunammite woman who hosted Elisha and Elisha wanted to help her. The woman did not ask for anything, but Elisha's servant Geḥazi said "verily she has no child, and her husband is old" and Elisha called for the woman and announced to her "About this time, in the coming year, thou shalt embrace a son" and the woman implored "no my lord, thou man of God, do not lie to thy handmaid" (II Kings 4:14-17).

The case of Elisha and the boy parallels the story in Parashat vaYera, when the angelic guest announced to Abraham and Sarah “I will certainly return to thee at this season; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son”, and the text tells us “Now Avraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; and it has ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women” (Gen. 18:10-12). The important similarity is in the result: “And the Lord visited Sarah as He said, and the Lord did to Sarahas He had spoken, and Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him” (21:1). Whereas in the case of the Shunammite, “and the woman conceived, and bore a son at that season of which Elisha had spoken to her, in the following year” (II Kings 4:17).

It is possible that the promise of a son and its realization by old people who cannot bear a son is the sole reason for including this passage in the Haftarah. Yet even though the birth of the son was a kind of a miracle, the passage in II Kings comes to tell of a bigger miracle. The son died suddenly and his mother put him in the attic she dedicated for Elisha, ran to implore Elisha, and he – the Man of God – succeeded to bring him back from the dead.

We may note here, however, that all the miracles that Elisha performed repeated the miracles made by his master Elijah-Elyyahu: food that does not end at the woman who hosted him "the jar of meal was not consumed, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Elyyahu", and the main thing – the resurrection of the host's son (I Kings 17:16-24).

This story of resurrection has a certain parallel with the story of the Ạqedah. Here are Midrashim (exegesis) that tell about Yitzḥaq that "his over-soul (Neshamah) flew" at the Ạqedah, namely, that he had already died, and then he was resurrected. This theme was amplified in Midrash haGadol (page 360) that ascribed to Yitzḥaq real death, "the ashes of Yitzḥaq upon the altar", and thus also real resurrection. If so, than the common to the Parashah and to the Haftarah is the theme of revival and even resurrection.

The theme of the resurrection has indeed been adopted in Judaism, yet it constitutes the basic point of contention between Christianity versus Judaism and Islam. Did Jesus the Nazarene die on the cross, and did he come back to life afterwards? For Christianity, this is the core of faith, and there are also "Messianic Jews" who theorize that it was not the man Yeshu'a-Jesus who was nailed to the cross, but it was God himself who masqueraded to be a man (which actually misses the point, for what does God need to care about physical chastisement?). Islam, on the other hand, claims that Jesus did not die on the cross, but someone else who looked like him (and the Qoran states that Allah has no need of a son). Traditional Jewish ignores "that man" as much as possible, whereas a few Jewish intellectuals in the last generations accepted Yeshu'a as part of the Jewish people, but totally negated the Christian conceptions of him.[2]

For those who yearn for the realization of the mission of Israel in the structure of the Twelve Tribes, and who view Orthodox Judaism as but one component of the whole Israel, it is important to find a point of view and conception of Jesus that would draw Jews and Christians nearer. The British Jewish historian Hugh Schonfield, who dedicated himself to the restoration of the whole messianic Israel, has built a revolutionary Jewish conception of the story of the crucifixion and (partial) resurrection of Yeshu'a the Nazarene. In his 1965 bestseller "The Passover Plot",[3] Schonfield established the idea that Yeshu'a went willingly to the cross in accordance with the Jewish messianic legends, and actually planned the whole scene and forced the Sanhedrin and the Roman governor to judge him for crucifixion – but a crucifixion that would last but a few hours and then he would be treated, resuscitated and return as a leader who overcame death. The inspiration for such a dramatic act could have occurred to him from the story of the Ạqedah – which Christianity regards as model ("Type") for the sacrifice of "the Son of God". But the notion for the dramatic act could no less derive from the story brought in the Haftarah of Parashat vaYera.

The stories of the prophet Elijah and of Elisha the Man of God in the books of Kings are similar in some aspects to the story of Jesus in the Gospels and apparently also they provided inspiration to the writers of the Gospels. The Gospels say that he fed hundreds of people with a few fish and loaves of bread, that he attracted people because he healed the sick and even resurrected the apparently-dead Lazarus. If you like, even Elisha's staff, which served to help hold the dying boy alive, is somewhat akin to the cross.

Such reading of the Ạqedah, the Haftarah and the Gospels story supports Schonfield's conception of Yeshu'a-Jesus as a messianic Jewish hero, and thereby support the possibility of Jews and (post?) Christians to belong together to the renewed completed Israel.







[1] For example, this was done blatantly by Yossi Sarid, first in a newspaper article and later, when he was Minister of Education, during a debate in the Knesset. A more religious analysis on "Abraham's Mistake" was made by ethics professor Asa Kasher.

[2] Matthew Hoffman: From Rebel to Rabbi - Reclaiming Jesus and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture. Stanford University Press, 2007. There are also a number of Hebrew books that claim the same

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