Abraham’s Children

On every holiday we read a portion of the Torah that relates in some way to the “theme” of the holiday we are celebrating. Rosh Hashana is no exception.

On the first day we read about Abraham and Sarah being blessed with a son at a very old age, and on the second day we read about Abraham being tested by G-d. He is asked to do the incomprehensible and sacrifice his son. When G-d sees that he is willing to do this, he stops him at the last moment.

For most of us this is mind boggling. For those of us who have shared the pain of waiting to be blessed with a child, and then receiving this blessing, it is way beyond our ability to grasp. How did Abraham find the strength to do what G-d wanted?

The liturgy of Rosh Hashana refers to his act a number of times, when we ask for G-d’s mercy. Asking G-d to remember Abraham and his superhuman willingness to follow G-d’s will, we basically ride on Abraham’s coattails, and ask to be pardoned for our sins now.

The theme of Abraham’s children was reinforced in my yishuv this holiday in two ways, both very moving.

One, there was a bris on the second day of Rosh Hashana in the synagogue. This little boy, whose circumcision ceremony will never be forgotten, was “brought into the covenant of Abraham” with the entire community in attendance. (One parent is Ashkenazi, one parent Sepharadi, so both congregations came together for the bris).

Two, there were two very special guests in the synagogue. Two young women, who are preparing themselves for conversion, spent the holiday in our yishuv. The educational branch of the IDF provides introductory courses on Judaism to those soldiers who do not have Jewish mothers, so that they can decide if they want to convert. Every year, at the end of this course, the soldiers spend a Sabbath with Orthodox families. Our settlement has hosted these soldiers for this Sabbath for a number of years already. This year two young women decided to continue with the conversion process and are hosted by a family in the settlement whenever they want to come for a Sabbath or a holiday.

When a Jew is called up to the Torah, or when he or she needs a special prayer said, he is referred to as “Moshe, son of Shlomo” or “Esther, daughter of Eliezer”, using his Hebrew name and the Hebrew name of his or her parent. When someone converts to Judaism, they choose a Hebrew name for themselves, and they are referred to as “son of Abraham” (or Sarah, when the mother’s name is needed).

These two women will soon join the rest of us as Abraham’s children, one large and sometimes crazy family.

I wish all of my “siblings” an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur.


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