Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the Jewish year, began last night. I would like to share with you the thoughts of my friend Ambreen, as she reflected on this holy day. Her words were written to a different people and in a different context than most of you who read the Poon blog, but I personally found them to be challenging anyway.
During Rosh HaShana our liturgical year brings us to the story of the akeidah, the binding of Isaac, in Genesis 22:1-19. It is a strange, cruel story, and it is particularly peculiar that we are called on to read it at a time of celebration. Perhaps a fresh reading of this text can take away the peculiarity and be seen in light of this season of repentance. Perhaps the point of reading this text at this time is that obedience and faithfulness themselves do not bring about repentance. Isaac’s birth was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, the fulfillment of his covenant, his dream, his future. It was a promise of steadfastness and endurance. And the call to sacrifice Isaac – the son of promise, Abraham’s dream and future – would signal the end of the covenant. As one rabbi put it, “for Abraham, obeying this commandment [would] mean agreeing to the ultimate act of self-negation.” Abraham was willing to destroy his heir, his hope, his very future, in an act of obedience. Herein we can find a connection between repentance and the akeidah – “true repentance requires our willingness to shatter our perceptions of who we are and what we think we must continue to be.” As Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which was dearest to him, so we too, search within ourselves for the hopes and ideology that we must be purged of, that must be sacrificed. And when we are willing to give up our dearest dreams, we may be surprised at the alternatives we are offered, something better than we could have hoped or imagined.
Are we willing, like our patriarch Abraham, to risk our future for the sake of obedience? Are we willing, like our father Isaac, to submit to the will of our Father, even when such an act may prove painful and destructive? Are we willing to have to put aside our security, personal and national, and turn to God in true repentance?
Emphasis mine. You can read her words in context here.