Days of Awe

An old scout born in Minnesota (Wes Westrum), on worship and baseball, once said: Many go, few understand. It was two years ago when I read a piece in America magazine about the Akedah, the strange story read on Rosh Hashanah about how to somehow keep this God alive, what has been haunting me ever since?

Rosh Hashanah. As Jews hear once again with the start of the High Holy Days, the account of the binding of Isaac. When it has always been tough to be in such an alliance, with the true believers. When the story, like all good stories, was about the future. At what point do you relinquish whatever identity you have inherited or seemed to have helped build yourself – with Abraham, prepared to give everything that was important away. In a sacrifice.

In the story about the interior system of belief, creating something out of nothing, for sons who followed fathers, generation after generation. Abraham, Isaac, and later Jacob, with their torturous relationships, in an under-populated world populated by mostly people living in denial, if not fear, of God. In the approach of fathers to sons, the comparative approach to the real God by fathers to sons, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, on life and death, with that identity commandment. Which started with the knife, at birth, as Abraham had used a knife on Isaac when he was born. And the conflict in this story was over the method that Abraham in the story used for “evangelization.” So again the knife in this story, like he had used on Ishmael when he was twelve or thirteen. And Ishmael could ever forget what his father had done? As some kind of punishment, for what he had done?

Crazy people, having to start all over, with God or without Him. Sons, when this was all over, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question…and passing it on, with such emotion. To keep something alive with passion — having to choose, on another Rosh Hashanah. This Abraham with a split family who wanted others to have the same powerful experience, as he had had. Except maybe not like between Hagar and Sarah. Abraham who had shown up at the same place at least a generation earlier with Ishmael, if you believed the Qoran, in the reading at the end of Ramadan, of Eid Al Fitr with the same scene played out, only between Abraham and Ishmael. And when it was tough to be in such an alliance, with the true believers over the truth…and what it was you were you going do with it, once you discovered how to pray? In these relationships arranged by your family, the torturous ones over fertility, for the father of faith to his sons and to his God – over God and the inheritance of God. Maybe with a craziness not unlike all the things that happened on September 11th, if you lost the proper perspective — considering how to communicate the ideas all about identity and who Abraham was – if not outright crazy, after circumcising sons and slaves with some kind of fertility vow, as part of the identity commandment which involved power and fertility? How so different than other men, in their day. No wonder the stories of Sarah’s laughter, when she recognized all of Abraham’s craziness.

Born with a pre-existing condition. This story was all about of Isaac as a son of Abraham who must have seemed so crazy. With an overall theme directed at intimations of attachment, like the attachment that I got at home from my parents and grandparents. To share that holiness that often was directed to a home. Or a neighborhood. Or a city. From a distinct sense of place in my life which had always been asserting itself, enfolding over time, staking a claim on a people. Before it was lost or overtaken. Or just taken anyway? When you had come to know something about a place.

That a nomad was supposed to resolve the crisis over belief, oy vey! Over shared belief. In a foreign land, outside the garden. When you wanted to share a heritage or a culture. In a quest to redeem society, and not just himself, to somehow – even when you seemed so old – confer a spirit about the past, in keeping this God alive. How can it be helped if a seed grows where it lands, once it’s been scattered, no matter from where your ancestors came.

Abraham dealing with inheritance, later to be spun as issues of birthright. No matter where you lived, the struggle, the anguish, in the comparative approach of fathers to sons. Sons who followed fathers, generation after generation.

The deepest part of Rosh Hashanah which came from stories about not just transporting a culture to a new place, but then somehow planting the culture. In a new place. People dealing with independence and multiculturalism, along with the changing roles of power.

When you came credentialed by the proper authorities, and you knew something about unrecognized painful sacrifices, and you desired to give your son up, for a brand new institution. Because you had fear over lost belief? Over your realization how much Hagar and Ishmael hated you — or about Sarah, who you had almost an incestuous relationship as your wife— passing on everything that she had planned about your family. And what was the risk that her kid would be crazy? Or already was crazy, as Abraham. Was crazy Abraham, at the end, acting for Sarah, as he considers a honor killing, wondering if a sacrifice would ever be recognized. To be blessed in the name of God, having to choose, when your prayers were so alive, and you wanted others to have the same bigger than life experience. When the French “blesser,” means to wound. So was it Abraham or Isaac, wondering if he had even mattered, begging to have had mattered, begging to be blessed, so that God would never forget, NEVER forget Abraham, just like THE Holocaust. Somehow the movement in the common stories, like the physics in the Akedah, or Eid Al Fitr, creating something out of nothing — like in the beginning. So why not just end it all on Mount Moriah, Noah-like, without the ark? And God, if He let him kill Isaac, then surely understood.

And so another Rosh Hashanah, as the Jewish world considers again how to keep something authentic alive about shared belief, about painful human sacrifice even after anesthesia had been invented. What exactly was Abraham having to choose, in his sacrifice on Mount Moriah? With an intensity of the stories, like the Akedah … to communicate the idea about what Abraham knew. About himself, about his life, and then the risk that God took with Abraham, with his kin and his wife — with his split family, with Ishmael, in his second chance with Isaac, and the quality of all of his relationships. Or not. The movement in this father of faith story, to confer a spirit in the name of God, in relationship — in the end, never feeling worthy through perfect human sacrifice. With an Irish intuitive sense of what was happening, what Germans call fingerspitzengefuhl – the fingertip feel that maybe your baseball coach understood — for me the story was all about the Abraham’s plan. He was never coming back, you know. Home. To Sarah. Not after he killed her son. When neither of them were ever coming back. Originally. These guys after all were nomads, for God sake. Can you imagine the shock of Sarah when she heard the story? Or the neighbors? About Abraham, the allegedly just man of his generation, who with his ego had a concept about only marrying within the tribe, marrying his father’s — but not his mother’s — daughter. Who would ever belief or forget this story? With the shame in the story, until the part about God’s intervention, as the past and the future on Mount Moriah at odds were reflected upon.

Stories about points of view, in a creator’s desire for perfection, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, in comparative approaches to God by fathers to sons on life and death, with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture. To discover in the story somewhat unexpectedly, for sons who followed fathers, a Living God– power without domination – through the unforgettable pain of father and son trying to understand the manner to pray, in the story that transcends boundaries.

To confer a spirit about shared belief, in the name of God, with all the tension in the forgiveness story, with post traumatic stress on issues of trust, for the young, unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — wondering first about the genetic affect and then about the environmental affect on Isaac, after a father was ready to take a knife to you. How did the wounded, like Isaac, still believe in his father of faith, the tragic hero who had married his father’s daughter? Would he ever accept authority again, or find his own recognized leadership role — in the dénouement of the story? In the age of multi-culturalism, as Isaac moved outside the enclave of Abraham’s home into his own, how did Isaac hold onto such crazy belief? When belief about Abraham’s God had to be so painful, in the remainder of his life. As he clearly needed some direction, after this experience, to find his own personal God.

How did the wounded, like Isaac, still believe afterward not only in the God of Abraham, but in his father of faith — this crazy nomad taking people from the ancient Semitic population, descendants of Noah’s eldest son, to places where they never had been? And now what would you do with the the God of Abraham?

The Akedah.jpg

Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, was in the dénouement — in the release of tension in the dénouement — coming back home in his lameduck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility. When the most serious of the deadly sins for Chosen People was pride, involving a desire for power, to be more important than others? As the plot becomes untied, dealing with loss of mostly power in old age, and starting over – to recognize the developments after the Akedah story, as Isaac, not Abraham, becomes the protagonist by the time of the dénouement of the story?

When the power of a culture is based upon a shared literature. In stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories, if the power in the ideals of a father – the bonds, the identity, and all the belief – is gonna survive. If the identity in a name is going to survive at another level. When you were forced to somehow start over. In new years, hearing the old stories which came out of Abraham-like relationships, and with all the unforgettable stories, in relationship. From our father in faith — the warrior sheik who in battle freed his nephew Lot – comes the story of people shamed by what they had to endure. The physics of blood of Abraham, telling things which a son had no capacity to imagine, with the long after-affects of war, on a surrounding society that celebrated war. Creating a lax atmosphere, around an old way of life. Watching eye-popping torture. Without knowing the details, or the affects on home lives afterwards. And with the need for revival.

To discover in stories an identity — your own identity — that you would one day find you really could not escape. In new beginning, circumcision based upon unconditional love, with the continuing themes of fertility and the Truth. Stories of crazy people — Chosen People — having to start all over. To recognize the shift by the end of the story that is now all about of Isaac, on Rosh Hashanah, if compounded belief is to stay with the descendants of Issac. After all of Abraham’s chances in life passing on that power in bonds, finally, like for Isaac, the return to the same place where he had started out as a young man, to begin again.

To gain access, in stories of discovery climbing mountains like Isaac, with divine intervention at the top of Mount Moriah — in a story about receiving strength and power in a crazy belief in this God today for daughters and sons who followed fathers — connecting with other critical thinkers, passing on in new years the power in bonds which had come out of the collective memory of the journeys of nomads.

Like in a dénouement of the story, passing on the power in bonds between your own people, passing on the Spirit in some kind of Abraham-like Crazy Glue,in a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right. Accepting, like Isaac finally accepted his identity, as the son of the father of faith, as the ethnic enclaves broke apart and he needed a family to carry on the tradition. In another new year leading up to the Day of Atonement, this day was to commemorate a power in passing on the bonds of forgiveness.

Copyright © 2012

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#Susannah Bianchi

3 comments so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    That a father needs forgiveness from a son …. over what the son was born into, at least in One perspective of a Creator. As a son discovers the bond which came from real sacrifice. In a story about authentic love, Abraham came to find a place of forgiveness from the people he loved. The Promise Land was that place of forgiveness. Discover the reason why the Days of Atonement followed Rosh Hashanah. Here and Now.

    N.B. Since I have had no formal education concerning the holy days of Islam, I might have confused the celebration of Sacrifice in Eid-al-Adha to what Muslims heard read at the conclusion of Ramadan, on Eid-al-Fitr.

    Rather than pray, just listen to their prayer, with an intensity, in the “Take, Lord” Prayer, set to music! In the powerful plea to God to take from me.. . dispose of me, for your Creation. Behold the personal fear of this prayer, over “Your love and Your Grace…Enough! For me. Your love is enough.”

  2. paperlessworld on

    DID you see the irony if not humor in the story of Abraham – in the beginning of – when his thirty-plus-year-old son would not ever leave? Who ever thought? … in the be careful for what you pray.

    “May the force be with you.”

    May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

    Rule Number One, as a Creator, after The Akedah, is to have been preparing for this day – as a mother, a father – when your son would leave. [Cain never left until he killed his brother; Eve never left with her husband until she ate the apple. And it was Sarah who had to ask that Ishmel leave.]

    Did you know of the unsettling, for the escapee from prison, anytime you heard a siren. So on what day did you come to KNOW that Cain killed Abel with the knife, Abraham? How is this connected to the story of circumcision? And is this why this reading about The Akedah is selected for the start of the High Holy Days?

  3. paperlessworld on

    by Britt Pollock

    I am from Creighton University.

    from Gallagher Fountain to Morrison Stadium.

    I am from 8,236 students.

    from Old Gym rooftops and underground tunnels

    to Starbucks and Sodexo.

    I am from all-nighters for Bio tests,

    from Saturdays in the library

    and traditional Wednesjays.

    I am from bricks on the mall,

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