The Sacrifice of Sarah
by Ali Witte

1. SOME TIME AFTERWARD (XXII, 1) – Meaning after Elohim made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah that their offspring would be made into a great nation as it says “I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you” (Genesis XVII, 1-8).

GOD PUT ABRAHAM TO THE TEST (XXII, 1) – ‘Elohim, Hineni’ Sarah said, ‘Here I am, too. I laughed in the presence of angels when You gave me Yitzhak, and I am also worthy to be tested as it is written, ‘Thou hast given a banner (nes) to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed (le-hithnoses)[1]… in order to try them in the world and exalt them in the world like a ship’s ensign [flying aloft].’[2]

2. AND GOD SAID TO ABRAHAM, TAKE NOW THY SON, THINE ONLY SON... ISAAC, WHOM YOU LOVE… AND OFFER HIM… AS A BURNT OFFERING (XXII, 2). Sarah overheard, and said to Elohim, ‘This must be a mistake. Is this not also test? You have not even addressed me directly about taking a gift given to me. How can You take it without asking me? Why do You ask Abraham only?’ That night, Sarah could not sleep. She got up early, and watched Abraham saddle his ass for the journey as it is said, AND HE TOOK WITH HIM TWO OF HIS SERVANTS AND HIS SON ISAAC (XXII, 3). ‘I’m going, too,’ Sarah told Elohim, and she followed them to Mount Moriah (THE PLACE OF WHICH GOD HAD TOLD [THEM] (XXII, 3)). She followed Abraham and Yitzhak up the mountain, and watched as Abraham BOUND HIS SON ISAAC… AND… PICKED UP THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON (XXII, 10). From the thicket, Sarah asked Elohim, ‘What about Your promise to us? How are we to pass down our covenant to Yitzhak if he is dead?’ Sarah suddenly understood and said, ‘Is passing down this covenant more than passing down our blood? Do You want us to pass down our ensign? Are we to pass on to Isaac our commitment to You? Hineni, use me as You will.’ Sarah prayed to the Lord, ‘Spare Isaac. Take me instead. Stop Abraham’s hand; remember Your covenant with us.’[3] AND THE LORD TOOK NOTE OF SARAH (Gen. XXI, 1) -- He sent a ram to take Isaac’s place. Then an angel spoke to Abraham, saying, DO NOT RAISE YOUR HAND AGAINST THE BOY… BECAUSE YOU [Sarah] HAVE DONE THIS (XXII, 16). Sarah pushed the ram into the clearing, and Abraham OFFERED IT UP AS A BURNT OFFERING IN PLACE OF HIS SON (XXII, 13).

AND SARAH’S LIFETIME… CAME TO ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS (XXIII, 1) – God heard her prayer on Mount Moriah, and honored her request.[4]

[1] Nes and le-hithnoses mean to prove or try, “with the idea of exaltation, from nes, an ensign flying aloft” (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LV:1, 1). God is setting Abraham and Sarah as a banner, testing them to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their faith, “so that He may then exalt them” (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LV1:, 1).

[2] Ps. LX, 6, as cited in Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LV:1, 1.

[3] Genesis XVII, 1-8.

[4] “Remember Your covenant with us” – On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the story of the Akedah is read, and the blowing of the shofar commemorates Sarah’s wails over Isaac’s near-death.