Abraham, Isaac and the Legacy Circle
Rosh HaShana Morning – 2015 – 5776
Rabbi Joseph M. Forman
Shana Tova. Happy New Year.
The Torah portion for this Rosh HaShanah morning comes from chapter 22 in the book of Genesis. Each year we read this Torah portion, and, as often as we read it, there continues to be a myriad of interpretations, questions, and challenges brought about by the story of Abraham bringing his son Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him there.
Following the command of God to offer him as a burnt offering, Abraham does not hesitate to fulfill this obligation.
Without mentioning a word of this to his wife, Sarah, Abraham gets up at the crack of dawn, takes his son, Isaac and a few servants, gathers some essential items for your typical multi-day-hike and sacrifice: a knife, some campfire wood, a rope – because you never know if you might need it – and off they all go …headed to a place of which our Torah portion says: God will show them.
What makes the story so challenging is that God has promised that Abraham will have descendants, and yet here in the story we find God asking him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. There seems to be an irreconcilable conflict in Abraham fulfilling the command to take the life of his son and God making good on the promise that Abraham will have numerous generations carrying on his faith.
And yet it is the interruption of the sacrifice, the call from an angel, which enables the promise to come true. The angel acknowledges that Abraham has passed the test, that he has shown his commitment to his faith through his willingness to make the most personal of sacrifices. It is because of his willingness to give up what is so precious to him that he is blessed with future generations.
By myself do I swear, says the Eternal, that because you have done this, and did not withhold your son, your precious one, from me, I will bless you greatly, and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore; and your descendants shall come to possess the gates of your enemies. All the nations of the earth shall be blessed through your descendants, because you obeyed My command. (Genesis 22).
The story of Abraham and Isaac continues through the generations of Jacob and Joseph and Moses and the people of Israel. It is a story that continues
because of the willingness of generations of people to make sacrifices. The legacy of Abraham endures to this day.
There are people whom we know in our own lives who have made sacrifices of all kinds that we might be here today, that we might continue to participate in Jewish living. They have built for us a foundation upon which to build a Legacy of Jewish continuity.
There are people in our community who made sacrifices a generation ago so that Or Chadash, the Reform Congregation of Hunterdon County could exist.
And there are people in our congregation who are making sacrifices today so that Or Chadash will continue to thrive and continue to exist.
This past year I encouraged our leadership to create a formal Legacy Program at Or Chadash in order for our congregation to begin planning for its long-range future. It was a project that I felt was critical to sustain the remarkable treasure that I believe Or Chadash is. With the tremendous enthusiasm of Harvey Gold and his committee, we now have such a program.
At this time I would like to thank our Legacy Committee for the tremendous work they have done to establish this program here – the chair of the committee, Harvey Gold, and his wonderful team of Adam Belkin, Rick Rosenthal and Debbie Weiss.
On this morning of Rosh HaShanah, a time when we read of our ancestor Abraham and the sacrifices that he made so that the blessing of future generations might carry-on the mantle of his faith, it is my pleasure to have Harvey and then Debbie share with you stories of their lives and how they have been blessed to continue the legacy of our faith.