Updated: Sep 21, 2020
This week’s portion is Rosh Hashanah. The first day of Rosh Hashanah 5781 is on Shabbat (September 19, 2020). Since this is a festival, we have a special Torah reading, and it is Genesis 21:1-34. The second day of Rosh Hashanah is Sunday, September 20, 2020, and the Torah reading is Genesis 22: 1-24.
Genesis 21 starts with Hashem “remembering” Sarah, and she conceives and has a son. She named him “Yitzhak” because “Hashem had made laughter for her that she had a son when she was 90 years old”. (“Yitzhak” comes from the Hebrew word “to laugh”). Abraham was 100 years old, and circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old and then gave a feast to celebrate.
In verse 9, Sarah saw that Ishmael, the son of Hagar (Abraham’s Egyptian concubine who had a son with Abraham because they didn’t think Sarah would ever give birth), was “playing” with Isaac. The Midrash states that Ishmael was shooting arrows near enough to Isaac so that he might get hurt. She told Abraham to send them away and Hashem assured Abraham that was the right decision. G-d also told Abraham, and an angel later reiterated that He will also make Ishmael a great nation.
In verse 14, Hagar and Ishmael leave with supplies for their journey. When they run out of supplies, Hagar places Ishmael apart from her so she won’t be upset when the child dies of thirst. An angel appears to her and here tells Hagar that Ishmael will be a great nation. G-d opens her eyes and she sees a well and goes and fills up her sack. Ishmael grows up and Hashem is with him. He becomes a great archer and his mother then goes to Egypt and finds him a wife.
In verse 22, Abimelech (king in the land of the Phillistines) and Phicol (his general) go to Abraham to make a pact for Abraham to dwell in their land. Abraham gave them sheep and oxen as a covenant that a well that Abraham dug was his. The place was called Beer-Sheva: “Sheva” means seven (number of ewes he gave them) and also “oath” (“Shavuah”).
During the second day of Rosh Hashanah we read Chapter 22 in Genesis (verses 1-24). It first states that Hashem is going to test Abraham. G-d tells Abraham to take “his only son, whom he loves, even Isaac” and offer him at Mount Moriah at a place which G-d will tell him later. They then set out on a three-day journey with two other manservants.
When they get to their destination, Abraham gives Isaac wood for the fire and Isaac asks where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham answers him that G-d will provide. Abraham then builds the altar, lays on the wood, and binds Isaac and lays him on the wood on the altar.
Abraham then takes a knife and stretches out his hand, but an angel stops him. The angel tells Abraham that he sees that Abraham is a G-d-fearing man and he doesn’t have to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham then sees a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham gets the ram and offers the animal in place of his son, Isaac.
The angel then tells Abraham that since he was willing to do this, G-d will multiply Abraham’s seed as the sand on the sea shore, and his seed will defeat their enemies. They then returned to Beer-Sheva.
The chapter closes discussing the genealogy of Rebecca, who would become Isaac’s wife and the second matriarch.