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It's About the Relationship

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Every year on Rosh Hashana, the shofar is sounded like the trumpets of a royal herald. The shofar is made from the hollowed-out horn of a kosher animal, most preferably a ram. The ram's horn is symbolically connected to the story of the "Akeidah," the binding of Isaac, when Abraham demonstrated that he was willing to have such faith in God as a merciful King who sees the greater landscape of time and history with such clarity that He would ask Abraham to bring his only son to a mountaintop as an offering. Abraham brought Isaac, but just as he was about to make the offering, an angel called out to stop him. Abraham lifted his eyes and discovered a ram caught in the thicket and sacrificed it in Isaac's stead. (The Torah uses the term "bring him up there as a designated elevation offering" but does not instruct Abraham to actually sacrifice him.)

The Akeidah is a narrative that inspires a wide range of emotional reactions, from indignation that God would make such a request to awe at the depth of Abraham's devotion. In my life, I would even say that I have, at different times, reacted both ways. As a parent, I fervently pray that I am never asked to even contemplate such a scenario. As a spiritually striving Jew, I long to have the type of relationship with God that would allow me to not hesitate when faced with challenges.

According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham did not have a static relationship with God. He felt so comfortable with his relationship with God that he questioned and confronted Him. Abraham's relationship with God was the next step in human spiritual development.

There is a fascinating commentary by Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac, read more on him here) on the verse: "And all the plants of the field were not yet upon the earth because God did not cause the rain..." (Genesis 2:5). Rashi explains that up until the sixth day of creation, the grasses and plants had not yet fully sprouted because they were waiting for the rain, and the rain was waiting for Adam, who was created and prayed for it. God waited because He wanted Adam to turn to Him and ask Him.

The day that Adam was created, the day that Adam first made a request of God, is the day on which we now celebrate Rosh Hashana. In fact, the holiday is also known as Hayom Harat Olam, the Birthday of the World. (Click here to read more on Hayom Harat Olam.)

In comparing these two stories, Adam asking for rain and Abraham's willingness to bring Isaac as an offering, it could be said that Adam represents the basic level of relationship that a human being should strive for with God. It represent the parent-child relationship, in that a child naturally feels comfortable asking a parent for both that which he needs and that which he wants. Abraham, on the other hand, represents the more advanced relationship in which a person is willing to go above and beyond his/her comfort zone. This can be compared to the ideal relationship in a marriage.

Few people, if any, have the spiritual awareness and relationship with God that Abraham had. However, we each have the ability to emulate Adam and begin our relationship with God simply by turning to Him and asking for that which we need.