Abraham, Don't Go There

The deeds of fathers are not always a good sign for sons. And if it is essential to ask God, it is far more so to ask Netanyahu and Barak - whose supporters do not even attribute supernatural qualities to them.

Though not in a synagogue, I do read the weekly Torah portion at home for my pleasure and enlightenment. This week it is once again particularly relevant to current events. We do not always have answers to all the questions, but we do always have questions for most of the answers. We would not like to resemble the hapless son from the Passover Haggadah who does not know how to ask and leaves the work of asking - What is this service to you? - to the wicked son. Sometimes one little question is enough to try to prevent a great evil, and I am the wicked one here.

Ask, ask, ask all the time, and don't accept an answer as the consensus. Probe, probe, probe all the time, since there is nothing more amazing than what, to them, is clear. Don't get tempted into the stupid approach that they, up there, know a lot more and will therefore make an intelligent decision. Don't agree to deprive yourselves of your sovereignty of thought and deposit it in the hands of God or any man.

I can still remember Chief of Staff Ehud Barak presenting his operational plan to the security cabinet. Upon hearing his words, the ministers raised their heads high like hypnotized snakes to the tune of the fakir's flute: What a genius, a real Napoleon. But one pinprick question took the air out of him, and all at once the dominoes scattered. He hoped for Grapes of Wrath but he got rotten fruit. The inhabitants of southern Lebanon will scatter before us, he explained, and force the administration in Beirut to take responsibility. And what will happen if they don't want to or can't flee? Allah have mercy on them, and he didn't.

And I remember the affair of the attempted assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Jordan - how it was planned and how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cooked it up. And who can't remember the sea battle against the Turkish armada off the coast of Gaza this year? Now they are spreading before Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef and Interior Minister Eli Yishai the map of the sharp, clean attack on Iran, in order to get help from heaven for their intercession.

All of this is in accordance with the traditions of Israel, to which a question mark has never been posed but rather always exclamation marks. This "we will do, and obey" (Exodus 24:7 ) is the root of all blindness. An entire people, which will soon worship the golden calf, undertakes to act first and only afterward to listen, whereas the order of things should be the other way around: First you ask and question, and only afterward do you bomb. Had we made it our practice to ask before we leap, we would have been spared quite a lot of beatings.

Now we have come to the Torah portion of the week, Vayeira (Genesis 18-22), and the role of a timely question - when it should be asked. Abraham thinks he is hearing voices from heaven when he takes his only son in order to slaughter him. He gets up early in the morning, saddles his ass, gathers the wood and piles it up on his son's back and carries the fire and the knife himself. This isn't the first time this father - the father of many nations - sends a child of his own to his death: On the previous occasion he sent little Ishmael along with his mother Hagar into the wilderness. He commits these crimes without a single question, and he is someone they want us to see and to obey.

If God is interested in experiments and if Abrahams are prepared to experiment, goody for them. Let them donate their own bodies to their faith, but they should not lay their hand upon the lad and his life. On the topic of the sacrifice throughout the generations - to sacrifice or not - there has to be an open, public debate, but Abraham did not even share with his wife, the boy's mother. Nu, okay, she's only a woman and frivolous, and it's possible she might have advised her husband: Abraham, don't go there, because the big bad wolf of this horror is going to eat you all your life and will forever hunt down your seed.

The deeds of fathers are not always a good sign for sons. And if it is essential to ask God, it is far more so to ask Netanyahu and Barak - whose supporters do not even attribute supernatural qualities to them. He who believes does not fear? A pity. I, in fact, am scared stiff of anyone who believes and is afraid to ask.