The last laugh

I have always found the story of Akedat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac, a difficult one to wrap my head around. There are countless reactions one could have to the story of God’s impossible request that Abraham sacrifice his only son. I’d like to share a thought that once occurred to me.

Abraham was promised that he’d be the father of a great nation and that through them, the entire world would be blessed.

The Akekah is not just a story about Abraham and Isaac. On some level, it is a message that the Jewish people will face a perilous existence where our fate seems like we’re always living on the precipice of extinction.

But before ascending the mountain, Abraham said to the young men accompanying him: Stay here by yourselves with the donkey, while I and the lad will go further; we will worship and WE will return to you (Genesis 22:5).

Deep down inside, Abraham seemed to know that things would work out. The situation looked dire – but he had an abiding sense of trust.

Akedah means binding. For so much of our history, we’re in a bind. But the name Yitzchak (Isaac) means ‘he will laugh’. Somehow, if we know that the future will be glorious, we can have the strength to get through the difficulties.

After the destruction of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues passed by seeing a fox emerging from the site where the Holy of Holies had been. The sages began crying, but Rabbi Akiva laughed. His colleagues asked him why he was laughing, and he asked them why they were crying.

Rabbi Akiva consoled his friends by saying that there had been prophesies about the destruction of the Temple. But now that he sees the fulfillment of those prophesies, he is supremely confident that the prophesies that the Temple will one day be rebuilt will also be fulfilled. This deep knowledge that ultimately, things will work out and the world will be as its supposed to be gave Rabbi Akiva great strength. He had his Yitzchak moment. (Babylonian Talmud, Makkos 24b)

May Hashem give us all the clarity to know at the deepest level that no matter how difficult things get – we, and the entire world will one day see the light. We will laugh.

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