Did Isaac Laugh as He Climbed Down from Abraham’s Altar?

Oct. 22 2021

Examining the story of the Binding of Isaac, known in Hebrew as the akeidah and read in synagogues this Sabbath, David Wolpe considers his own experience having undergone brain surgery twice. He writes:

When I was recovering from my second surgery, they put a plaster cast around my swollen head (insert joke here), and I was immobile and pretty miserable for a few days. However, when they cut the cast off and I could go home, I was suddenly and unexpectedly exhilarated. This giddy moment gave me a new way to look at this passage. The vast majority of the commentary on the akeidah deals with the motive of God and the reaction of Abraham. (And there is also a beautiful Yehuda Amichai poem about the fate of the ram.) Relatively little is written about the feelings of Isaac.

How did Isaac feel about the akeidah? There is room for more than one feeling in the human heart, and surely alongside his perplexity and faith there was fear. Yet after the angel cried out to Abraham and Abraham withdrew his hand, could there not also have been exhilaration? Would Isaac not step away from the altar, as I did from the hospital, with the electrifying recognition that he had been under the knife and survived?

Yes, it is quite different to face a knife intended to sacrifice you (especially when wielded by one’s father) and a scalpel intended to cure you. But in both places the Angel of Death hovers overhead. Everyone who has faced death in any of countless ways, as so many of us have, understands the enveloping nature of the trial and the astonishment of pulling through.

We often translate Isaac’s name as “laughter.” Strictly speaking, of course, Yitzḥak means “he will laugh.” Yet there is no instance in the Torah of Isaac actually laughing. When did our patriarch fulfill the destiny implied by his name? After I left the hospital, I imagined that perhaps, as he walked down the mountain, Isaac laughed.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Binding of Isaac, Hebrew Bible, Isaac

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy