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

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.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Binding of Isaac, Hebrew Bible, Isaac

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security