A rabbi and an imam: The story of Isaac and Ishmael can be a source of hope

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A fresco painting on a Haft Tanan mausoleum wall in Shiraz, Iran, has this image of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

Photo courtesy of Evgenia Kononova, via Wikimedia Commons

A fresco painting on a Haft Tanan mausoleum wall in Shiraz, Iran, has this image of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

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(RNS) The shared story of the binding of Isaac can be a story of hope for peace between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and across the globe.

  • Garson Abuita

    Two relevant midrashic [rabbinic legends] insights from the Artscroll Rosh Hashanah Machzor [prayerbook]: (1) When God tells Abraham in Genesis 22:2 to “please take your son” to be sacrificed, Abraham told God that he had two sons. (2) One of the two “youths” that accompany Abraham and Isaac on the journey is Ishmael, who had come back for a visit. Ishmael is not completely absent from the Torah story.

  • Bernardo

    ” Ishmael is not completely absent from the Torah story.” Actually, he as Ishmael is just another myth as was his father Abraham. Add Moses and Noah to the list of myths invented by the Jewish scribes.

    Details? See: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    And let us not forget those “magic” words in the koran:

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

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  • samuel johnston

    This nightmare of a story (gave me nightmares as a child), mainly supports the view that the three major religions that have prevailed in the Western culture were/are a disaster (Anitole France) . Greek religion had developed into a philosophic attitude, and a playful comment on human passions and folly. The Abrahamic religions take themselves entirely too seriously, resulting in the Centuries old religious wars. Monotheism by its nature is arrogant and intolerant.
    Peace can only be acieved by men laughing at themselves and their own pretensions.
    “…But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
    or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
    horses like horses and cattle like cattle
    also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies
    of such a sort as the form they themselves have.”

  • Joyce Stover

    I wonder, as might a child wonder, why they don’t say to hell with their conflicts and differences, gratefully embrace each other as siblings and bring serious peace to the world.

  • Jon

    It’s amazing that such a horrific story can be considered a good thing by any civilized person. A parent is asked to disembowl and butcher their child, and instead of refusing, as anyone with a bit of decency would do, they agree. Pure insanity. Look, we just had a similar situation wash up on the beach in Boston, and again, it’s due to religion (the murderer believed baby Bella was possessed by a demon). What kind of twisted belief would lead hundreds of millions of people to celebrate a horrific act like this? What kind of evil god would ask that of anyone, much less a parent? How can any sane person hold such hypocrisy in their mind – to celebrate these holidays (or even be a member of an Abrahamic faith), while somehow acting horrified at baby Bella’s fate?


    “1. I am making a covenant with you. “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land” (EXODUS 34:15)

    JESUS agrees.
    “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law” (John 7:19)

    We will never find peace by consulting religion.
    Peace will only be achieved by abandoning religions and agreeing to work together has human beings instead of submitting ourselves to divisive, tribalistic, primitive fictions.

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  • It is not good to rewrite the Holy Scriptures to make them fit our own personal preferences. The son that was offered to God was ISAAC! This was God’s command. This was a foretelling of the Son that Abraham would eventualy conceive through his posterity through Sarah, that is Yeshua Ha Mashiach/Jesus Christ. In this story is the foreshadowing of the essence of our salvation. The core message of the Bible.. Now, God did NOT require the life of Abrahams only son (only promised son), but God did require the life of His only Son. Jesus/Yeshua gave His life in atonement for the sins of the rest of us. This is what is represented by this event. Abraham believed that God would raise his son back from the dead. God did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed. Yeshua was indeed sacrificed and became our sacrificial Lamb, who God then raised from the dead. Receive Him as Lord and Savior. Turn away from false teachings and understandings, turn away from sin. And follow the Lord. God bless

  • Mark,

    “It is not good to rewrite the Holy Scriptures to make them fit our own personal preferences.”

    HA! Are you talking about Jesus !!!???

    “Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, to ensure his actions would happen as prophesied in scripture…” (John 12:14)

    If I order a steak at a restaurant and the waiter brings it to me
    he isn’t fulfilling scripture! He’s filling an order given to him!
    This stuff is for suckers.

  • Abdessalam Diab

    The struggle, or should we call it dispute, in the middle east has nothing to do with Judaism or Islam. It is between Zionists ( who turned later to be ZioNazists ) and Palestinians who lived thousands of years (on this part of the middle east called Palestine ) in harmony whether they were Jews,Christians or Muslims until that time when Britain and Zionism got together. Britain promised to give the land it doesn’t posses to Zionists who don’t deserve it. It is a political dispute . Even Jews don’t approve establishing a Jewish state. The long lasting dispute,the occupation ,the daily oppression of the native Palestinians on their land that is being stolen to build settlement for strangers coming to live on land they don’t own. Racism and racial genocide , shooting to kill, administrative detention ,demolishing Plestinian’s homes and forcing them to move away from their villages,uprooting their olive trees or setting fire in their farms and plants. Killing Palestinian women and…