The Last Test of Abraham

Steve Levin

The dramatic poem of Alexander Korotko "Abraham and Isaac" tells about the last, the tenth test of Abraham, which is discussed in the Torah, in the chapter "Vaera" of the book "Bereshit".

"God tests a righteous man, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence" (Theilim, 11: 5). And He does it because RABBAN explains that "He knows that the righteous will fulfill His will - and therefore, desiring to increase his merits, sends him a test, but he does not test the ungodly who will not listen to him. This means that all the tests mentioned in the Torah are for the good "(The book" Bereshit "with the selected comments of RAMBAN, Jerusalem, 5767/2007, p.79).

Rav Isaac Zilber (blessed memory of the righteous!) explains in his book "Conversations about the Torah" (Jerusalem, 5760/2000, p.35) that "God sends a test to the people who had previously given the strength to withstand it. <...> From experience of my life I know: there was no case that God sent a test to a man, not giving him the spiritual strength to stand. "

Why test? There are many explanations for this. One of them gives in the above words RAMBAN: in order that, having fulfilled the will of the Almighty, the righteous thereby increased his services and gave people an example of correct behavior in certain situations.

Among the previous tests of Abraham were extremely heavy: so, in young age he was thrown by the order of King Nimrod into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship his idols ... But the last, the tenth test was especially difficult .. After all, before it was about his own life and People close to him. Now to him, to the compassionate (the essence of Abraham is a Hesed *), God says: "Take, please, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moria, and offer him there as a sacrifice on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you "(22: 2).

Abraham fulfills the will of God without hesitation, without objection, although all that he has to accomplish is contrary to his convictions, feelings and behavior throughout his life. After all, Abraham taught people to do good, explained to them that God is repugnant to make human sacrifices. And now he must sacrifice his only beloved son Isaak, in which not only the future descendants of Abraham, but the future of the chosen people will be named.

But Abraham believes God more than himself. He is deeply convinced that God knows better then we what to do, and even when His purposes and ways are incomprehensible and seem absurd to us, we still have to follow His instruction (note that in this case it is not an order, But ask) ...

It was this collision between natural human feelings and duty that Alexander Korotko put his poem in the center of the plot.

Among the numerous predecessors of A. Korotko in the development of the "eternal" theme was Joseph Brodsky with the poem "Isaac and Abraham" (1963). Not really caring about following sources and accuracy (in his version "Isaac and Abraham alone in the desert walks to the empty place for the fourth day"), Brodsky gave here space "free style play and independence of the mind" (definition of V. Kulla).

In the poem by Alexander Korotko, this is countered by an exact follow-up to the facts of biblical history, which does not exclude the right to guessing and guessing.

The poem of Alexander Korotko is based on the text of the Torah and explaining and supplementing it with subjects of Midrash and Haggadah. At the same time, "Abraham and Isaac" is not a simple illustration of a well-known plot, but an attempt at an independent poetic interpretation of it.

Dialogue form of narration, creating a dramatic tension of the plot, constantly emphasized by the refrain "- Abraham! // - Here I am. ", The text of the Torah is prompted to the author, where there is a dialogue between the Almighty and Abraham, Abraham and Isaac. But the psychological drama of Abraham - the struggle of the human, fatherly feeling with the realized necessity to fulfill what is foretold by the Almighty, unfolds within his consciousness.

And this is a rethinking of the agagic plot in which Abraham's painful inner struggle unfolds in the form of his dialogue with the tempter Satan, who not only puts before him and his son external obstacles (impassable river), but also seeks to sow in their souls the doubt of the justice of the conceived , Playing on their feelings of good and justice.

The author limited the plot of the poem to three days of his father's and son's way to Mount Moriah, "where the Temple is to stand," and the circumstances under which the Akeda * of Isaak is committed. Alexander Korotko achieves the ultimate concentration of meaning, omitting some of the details known to the reader familiar with the Torah. So, the request of God about the ascension of Isaac is not presented.

But all the attention of the reader is directed at revealing the Divine plan ("All is the matter in His plan, in great mystery"). On the basis of how Abraham will accept and fulfill the request of the Almighty (and after all, he could refuse and remain "observant of the commandments", ie, not guilty of violating the Law!), According to the author's opinion, the future of the chosen people and the whole world depends.

This "plan" and its implementation are revealed in the poem gradually. Stages of Abraham's Labor are marked by the indicated refrain: "- Abraham! // - Here I am". This is simultaneously.


 This "plan" and its implementation are revealed in the poem gradually. Stages of Abraham's Labor are marked by the indicated refrain: "- Abraham! // - Here I am". This is both an appeal and the question of the Supreme about the path chosen by Abraham, to which is the answer of readiness to go and fulfill.

Abraham, it seems, is completely subordinate to the voice of the Almighty: "- I hear. He is above me, in me. He is above all earthly obstacles. "

In the desires of Abraham and Isaac, "there are no differences." Father calls on his son to pray for future generations, understanding that at that moment their fate is being decided.

The culmination of the test is Abraham on the verge of accomplishing the Deed. He is exhausted: "I feel stifled, I am cramped on the ground. I know You're waiting for action. All tears are blotted out ... "And now" At the head of Isaac is Abraham, and the knife, like an angel, hovered over the body in his hand. Everything is full of greatness. "

What will prevail is "blind faith" ("Yes, blind. Silence grumbles, the gates of paradise are open "), a conscious feeling or element of passion?

According to the agadic story, at the moment when Abraham brought a knife over his son, Satan pushed him, the knife fell out. And Abraham wept, but he lifted the knife and brought it again. And then the heavens opened above Isaak and he saw that on the place where he lay, then it will be built, then destroyed and rebuilt again the Temple. And the angel called to Abraham, urging him not to harm the boy.

Alexander Korotko even more sharpens the situation:

Another moment, and Abraham will bring the knife not into the heart of his son.

The sources known to us, on the contrary, emphasize that at the time of Akeda, Abraham did not doubt the justice of the conceived, and his determination did not weaken at all. But this poetic conjecture of the drama of the father in the poem is justified by the further torments of Abraham for his momentary weakness - "the thought that ran in a gray mouse in ... a tortured consciousness."

Moreover, the Almighty fully justifies Abraham and highly appreciates his Act and its significance for the future.

God's controversy with his servant Satan, who did not believe that Abraham was able, in the name of faithfulness to the Almighty, to sacrifice his own son, was resolved in favor of Abraham. He stood firm in this difficult test, although he paid for this with the anguish and death of his wife Sarah, who did not bear the news that he was preparing to shed the blood of their only son.

Poem A. Korotko stretches the bridge from the past to the present. In one of the interviews, the author, a believer, reflects: "How does a person differ from all the others and from angels in particular? He has the freedom of choice. Lord God did not create a puppet theater, he said: the most important thing is the fear of God and the freedom of choice. We can endlessly fall and rise, and the angel of this opportunity is deprived. Therefore, we have both a reward and a punishment "(Gordon Boulevard, 2005. June 14, No. 8).

"The affairs of the fathers are an example for the sons," our sages say. The story of Abraham's ascension of Isaak to the sacrifice, as set forth in the Torah and poetically translated into A.Korotko's poem, teaches us how, in fear of God, to make the right choice in our life and to do an act on whichdepends a lot, ...

Let us note in conclusion that the expressive poetic "fabric" of the poem contributes to the disclosure of the deep design - a flexible, emotionally saturated free verse, with occasional rhymes, sometimes turning into rhythmized prose.

The external and internal design of the poem, performed by Itela Mastbaum, based on decorative miniatures in hand-written and first-printed Jewish books, is quite in tune with the mood of the poem and at the same time echoes its biblical sound.