Here is a copy of the D’var Torah i gave for Second Day Rosh HaShannah at my home shul! The actual presentation may have varied from the written text! ENJOY!
Indulge me if you will. Close your eyes. Picture yourself about to face the biggest challenge or test of your life. Are you scared? Nervous? Excited? Are you going to ROCK IT? Are you willing to do ANYTHING to pass? Hold those feelings.
Open your eyes. Here we are, standing on the starting line of a whole new test, a new year, a new challenge. Here we stand as the book of life is open wide, blank spaces waiting to be filled with our deeds. ARE YOU READY? Are you HERE?
Our torah reading for today, known as Akeidat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac, details Abraham’s big test, his GRE, ACT, SAT, MCAT, take your pick. The portion begins with God putting Abraham to the test. He is told to take his son, his only son, his favored son, Isaac to a mountain and offer him up as a sacrifice. WHOA. This is quite the test. A voice comes from seemingly nowhere and informs Abraham that he is to sacrifice his own son, the one whom he has waited so long for, the one who was given to him as a gift (as we read yesterday).
I don’t know about you, but if this was me, I am not so sure I would be so eager to complete this test. But, Abraham, being the man of faith that he is answers God with a strong “HINEINI, Here I am.” Abraham is up to the task. He sets out with Isaac on the journey to Mount Moriah, and as they approach Isaac and Abraham take leave of their servants and begin father son bonding time as they hike up the mountain.
Now Isaac, being the inquisitive pre-teen that he was, starts to ask some obvious questions. Where is the animal for slaughter? Abraham answers in his own, faithful way, “God will see to the sheep for his burnt offering.” And Isaac accepts this as they continue on their way.
Abraham then prepares Isaac for the sacrifice, and just as he is about to commit the final act, taking the final test, an Angel, or messenger of God stops his hand. God calls out to Abraham and again he answers with “HINENI, HERE I AM!” What a close call. Abraham was about to make the ultimate sacrifice in his life for his faith, his belief in God. Abraham “Passes” God’s test and as a reward, is promised that He will be the father of a great nation, as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore.
The portion concludes with a genealogy of Abraham’s family. At first glance, the parshah appeared disjointed to me, first we read about this incredibly intense test of faith, and then, out of the blue we are thrown a genealogy. While I am still not exactly sure how this flows, I think the text hints at the importance of family. While Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son, and while their father-son bond might never be the same, they are still family, they still have connections to one another.
So, why did the rabbis decide to read this portion on the second day of our new year?
Perhaps they chose this text to remind us of the challenges in our daily lives, to remind us that while life might be challenging, whereas we might be asked to do tasks we don’t want, don’t feel up to doing, there might be some greater purpose to these actions. maybe this is to remind us of our roots, our genealogy, our support system?
Perhaps this is our wake up call, our time to announce “HINEINI, HERE I AM” I am ready for the task, ready to face the year, ready to commit. These texts in our parshah today are challenging, they challenge the human nature, they challenge the boundaries of comfort, what are we willing to sacrifice?
This year, may we find the strength within ourselves to call out HINEINI, HERE I AM in the face of a challenge. May we find the strength to support those around us who are facing a challenge and may we be blessed with the gift of success as we fill the blank pages of the book of life.
G’mar Chatimah Tovah, may we all be sealed in the book of life!