April 20, 2024
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Did Avraham Avinu Expect a Good Outcome From Akedat Yitzchak?

We Shall Return

It is one of the most puzzling aspects of Akedat Yitzchak! Avraham Avinu (in pasuk five) takes leave of his assistants and tells them that he and Yitzchak will serve Hashem and “v’nashuva, we shall return.” Why does Avraham Avinu say he will return with Yitzchak? He is about to offer Yitzchak as a Korban?!


Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra (to pasuk four) cites an answer that Avraham Avinu refers to returning with Yitzchak’s lifeless body. According to Ibn Ezra, Avraham Avinu conceals the truth lest Yitzchak Avinu flee. Parenthetically, this comment of Ibn Ezra is consistent with his assertion that Yitzchak Avinu is approximately 12 years old at the Akeda.


A Known Result?

A very tempting interpretation is that Avraham Avinu knew and was certain that the Akeda would end well. He is certain that Yitzchak will survive the Akeda since Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu (in pasuk two; see Rashi s.v. V’Ha’alehu) to bring Yitzchak as a korban olah, but not slaughter him. The problem with this understanding is that it saps the power of Akedat Yitzchak. It is not much of a nisayon, test, for Avraham Avinu if he is certain Yitzchak will survive the Akeda. The much more typical understanding of Akedat Yitzchak is that Avraham Avinu thought he would, on Hashem’s command, slaughter Yitzchak as one does an animal brought as a korban olah. Only after Hashem sent a malach to order Avraham Avinu not to harm Yitzchak and he unexpectedly encountered a ram did he know that he would not slaughter his son.



Rashi (to pasuk five s.v. V’Nashuva) cites Moed Katan 18a, explaining that Avraham Avinu’s “we shall return” was a prophecy. However, this approach seems problematic, for at that point, the Akeda ceased being a nisayon for Avraham Avinu since he knew that Akedat Yitzchak would have a happy ending.

In response, I suggest Rashi means that Avraham Avinu did not choose to say v’nashuva. Instead, Hashem made these words emerge from Avraham Avinu’s mouth. I think that even after he said v’nashuva, Avraham Avinu did not know why that word exited his mouth. Even after saying v’nashuva, Avraham Avinu thought Hashem expected him to slaughter Yitzchak as he would a korban.

TABC talmid Chaim Lipman adds a most interesting dimension to Rashi’s approach. If v’nashuva is a prophecy, it could also refer to the Jewish people’s return to Har Habayit/Har Hamoriah to visit the Beit Hamikdash or at least the Kotel Hama’aravi. The connection between Akedat Yitzchak and the Beit Hamikdash is deep and strong, as is clear from pasuk 14. I find it especially inspiring and invigorating whenever I visit the Kotel to remember that the Akedat Yitzchak occurred right here!


A New Approach: Bitachon

I suggest a new approach based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe famously stressing the teaching of his ancestor, the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe) “think good, and it will be good.” I think that although Avraham Avinu was not certain that Yitzchak Avinu would survive the Akeda, he was confident that the Akeda would have a happy ending. Avraham Avinu’s bitachon, trust, that Hashem would resolve the situation in Yitzchak’s favor generated a positive result.

For this reason, I suggest Avraham Avinu (pasuk eight) responds to Yitzchak Avinu’s questioning the whereabouts of the sheep to be slaughtered, “Hashem will show us the sheep.” Avraham Avinu trusted that Hashem would provide an alternative to sacrificing Yitzchak Avinu.


Think Good, Be Good

Although I am not a Lubavitcher chasid, I am fully convinced of the power of bitachon and “good thinking” from a remarkable experience with a Chabad shaliach. About 15 years ago, a woman contacted me two weeks (!) before her remarriage, for a get from her former spouse (in a separate discussion, we will, God willing, explain how we addressed the Havchana issue, the requirement to wait the required 91 days after delivering a get before remarriage). The former husband was located in Virginia, and I coordinated with the local Chabad shaliach for him to handle the husband’s appointing of a scribe to write the get, the witnesses to sign the get and an agent to deliver the get to the woman (the soon to be bride).

The Chabad shaliach told me he had a relationship with the husband and expected the gentleman to respond expeditiously. To our surprise, the former husband did not appear before the rabbi so quickly. One day passed, then another, and then another. The wife and I feared the former husband would not show up before her wedding. Finally, the wife called me in a great panic, and I immediately reached out to the Chabad shaliach.

I asked the Chabad shaliach what I should tell the wife. The shaliach responded that I should tell her a Chassidic story! So he told me the story of the Tzemach Tzedek advising a father with a deathly ill child to think good, and the child recovering soon after his father began thinking positively.

I was a bit skeptical, but I gave it a try. The wife asked me what the Chabad rabbi told me, and I said that he instructed me to tell her a Chassidic story. I asked her to think positively and have bitachon that Hashem would help. The wife agreed and called me to say to me that she placed her full trust in Hashem. While she was not a Chabad adherent, she had no alternative. I also joined her in support of her bitachon initiative.

The next day, after a week of waiting, the husband showed up in te Virginia shaliach’s office, and we completed the get in time for the woman’s wedding! Baruch Hashem!

I was sold on the power of thinking good and bitachon in Hashem. The very good results I have experienced from this practice lead me to believe that Avraham Avinu “thought good” as he drew close to Har Hamoriah with Yitzchak Avinu.


Conclusion: A Rosh Hashanah Message

In light of Avraham Avinu’s positive thinking which generated a happy ending at the Akedat Yitzchak, I suggest we do the same this Rosh Hashanah. We all tremble at the specter of Hashem judging us on this momentous day. However, our bitachon in Hashem will hopefully lead to a wonderful 5783 for ourselves, our families and all of Am Yisrael!

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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