Why is the story of the Binding/ha-Akedah of Isaac so important to Judaism/Christianity? Why are we so interested in the “testing” that we perceive G-d to have placed upon us? Do we believe that G-d is testing us to find something out? Does G-d not know the end from the beginning? Of course yes, He knows the end from the beginning. Perhaps we should follow the translators of the ASV and read “G-d proved Abraham,” then we might have a better understanding of what is happening in ha-Akedah/the Binding. We prove bread in its final stages, we seek to prove worth in a soldier in whom we already see merit. This in part is the meaning of proving.
G-d does not prove us to gain proof of us. G-d does not need to find us out. He proves us for our sake. Perhaps we would be less inclined to treat G-d with incredulity in times of trial if we understood that He is journeying with us to teach us about ourselves. After all, He knows us completely, we know ourselves only in part—it is hilarious to consider that knowing so little of ourselves we are none the less often eager to pretend to know others.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of “proving” is the lesson of humility. Abraham responds three times in the Akedah using the Hebrew word “Hineni”—I am humbly ready to receive you/your words. Firstly to G-d--ha-Av, then to his son--ha-ben, and finally to the Messenger of G-d--ha-Ruach. Abraham is nothing if not in full submission to G-d in this text (Genesis 22). Bread is proved by yeast, sugar, warmth and time. Dough is at the mercy of waiting and reliant on well measured ingredients. The quality of bread is the result of the skill of the baker.
Our Messiah found himself in this most vulnerable of positions in the garden of Gethsemane when the proving of all proving was made manifest in Him. His words mirror the faith He had placed in Abraham so many years before, “Not my will but Your will be done,” Hineni— I am humbly ready to receive you/your words, Your plan for my life.
© Yaakov Brown 2013
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.