It’s not always so easy raising kids. Family members disagree about what to do with the children. Outside forces have plans for the children that are not what the parents wanted.
We see these issues arise in the two Torah portions we will read on the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah, from Genesis, chapters 21 and 22.
In the first day’s reading, after not being able to have children throughout their long marriage, Sarah (aged 90) gives birth to Abraham’s son, Yitzchak (Isaac).
As Yitzchak grows up, Sarah sees that Ishmael, Abraham’s older son by his maidservant Hagar, is not a good influence. She tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. She says Ishmael “shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak.”
Sarah was not upset that Ishmael might inherit some of Abraham’s herds of sheep and pieces of silver. She was concerned about who would take over Abraham’s spiritual inheritance, to create a great nation – the Jewish people – to serve God. She foresaw that Ishmael was not able to do that, and that Yitzchak was to complete that task. Though Abraham was upset at sending his older son away, God promised that Ishmael, too, would become a great nation.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah we read the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzchak. God tells Abraham to take Yitzchak to the land of Moriah (the mountain where the Temple would be built) and sacrifice him there. This was to be a trial, to show Abraham himself the extent of his dedication to God.
Abraham takes Yitzchak to Mount Moriah, gathers wood and binds Yitzchak to sacrifice him, when an angel stops him and tells him that now God knows that Abraham fears Him. Abraham notices a ram caught in a nearby thicket and offers the ram as a sacrifice.
Like Abraham, we face many tests in life. Abraham understood that his purpose in life was to pass to future generations belief in God and adherence to His laws. To do that, he had to be willing to choose one son to carry on that work and send the other away. He had to be willing to sacrifice Yitzchak.
When we face challenges in the coming year, we should keep in mind the purpose we have chosen for ourselves – to live up to the Scout Oath and Law – with guidance and inspiration from the Torah.
Shana tovah and Shabbat shalom,