TOUGH DECISIONS, THE MORAL IMPERATIVE
By the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank
It is inevitable that we will face a multitude of tough choices throughout life. Do I accpet the promotion and uproot my family from their comfortable neighborhood, or not? Do I donate my kidney to my .wreckless, profligate, dying sibling, or not? Do I blow up a pirated ship bearing expensive military cargo along with an innocent crew, or not? Tough questions—but such moral dilemmas are that which makes us uniquely human.
There are few passages in the Torah that generate as much heated argument as God’s test of Abraham, the one where the Eternal will determine whether Abraham would withold his beloved son Isaac from sacrifice upon the altar. Charges against God abound—He is cruel, unethical, diabolic. And Abraham, too, catches the wrath of the reader for being submissive, unquestioning, and blind. Does Abraham follow God and lose his son, or protect his son and violate the divine will?
We face moral dilemmas constantly, and the question is not so much the cruelty of God or the submissiveness of Abraham, as much as it is how to respond to the moral dilemmas in life. Abraham’s actions establish a paradigm for us: no matter how precious someone or something may be to us, it must remain subordinate to the will of God. There are truths that we must abide by that supercede our greatest loves in the world.
You don’t buy it? Consider this. During the Holocaust, Jewish parents in hiding would sometimes suffocate their crying baby rather than let the crying reveal the location of the hidden group. Was that infanticide moral or immoral? As both God and Abraham teach us, there are truths that supercede our greatest loves in the world.
By the end of the story, God determines that Abraham fully understands this terrible moral lesson and is thus satisfied that he is the true bearer of a tradition of uncompromising devotion to the will of God which is all about truth and the creation of sanctified life. God assures Abraham that his devotion to truths greater than his own self-interest will render him the ancestor of a great people as numerous as the stars of the heaven or the grains of sand on the shore and—
Vehitbarekhu vezarekha kol goyei ha’aretz
All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants
Ekev asher shamata bekoli
Because you have obeyed My command (Genesis 22:18)
If we are at all devoted to a life of meaning and integrity, the decisions we make must be those which benefit not only ourselves, but those around us, and not necessarily saatisfy the needs of the short term, but protect us and strengthen us in the long term.
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