Saturday, February 22, 2014

Happiness from Self-Sacrifice

One night Abraham dreamed of a prophetic mission. When he left early next morning with his son and companions to offer God a sacrifice, they did not pack sandwiches. They took the necessary effects and rushed off.

Along the way they hardly spoke. Isaac had a question for his father, but it could wait to when they are alone. They trekked more than two days. Dread rippled through the blood of father and son for they committed the order of the day to God.

These were strong men. They mostly fasted more than 2 days as they advanced Northeast, headed towards what one day will be Jerusalem.

On the 3rd day, Abraham and Isaac saw "the cloud". It hovered over a hill, the hill later to be the place of the "Beit Hamikdash".

Father and son immediately recognized this cloud as their personal sign - because the companions were blind to this apparition.

Abraham told the companions to stay put and wait there with the donkey. Father and son proceeded to their venue.

Now Isaac broke his silence. Until now his question could wait lest in the presence of non-familial company it raise discomfort for his father or extraneous babble. But now Isaac asked, "Abba, where's the lamb to be sacrificed?"

Abraham's answer satisfied Isaac, who was willing in self-sacrifice to die for the cause, if need be.

Now they walked onward in total calm, both happily committed, both together happy to be at one - with God.

Hebrew has ten synonyms for "happy":
ששון ,שמחה, גילה, רינה, דיצה, צהלה, עליזה, חדוה, תפארת, עליצה
but, as the Malbim emphasizes, each synonym carries a different nuance for its meaning. For example, there is a happiness that derives from an immediate, unexpected source, like finding a treasure. Another one refers to a happiness expressed by singing. Whereas חדוה refers to a happiness derived from an otherwise sad event (I do NOT remember my source).

The words in the Akeida's chapter read, "וילכו שניהם יחדו", "and they went along together". The word יחדו shares the same letters with the Hebrew word חדוה, which, I suppose, is one way our sages determined the emotions of our forefathers during this episode.

Apropos, speaking of שמחה, someone once pointed out to me that the inner two letters of this word comprise the Hebrew word for "brain" (מח), whereas the outer letters make the word "lamb" (שה). We know that the Moses of the Generation is referred to as a "Faithful Shepherd". Said my friend, were we to relegate our brains according to the wishes of our Shepherd, we'd experience true happiness.


  1. Wasn't the mountain Mount Moriah, not mount Sinai?

    All the best

  2. Anon - You are right - thanks; I went ahead and changed that point!