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Yes It’s Child Sacrifice, Isaac, But Hear Me Out
an original short story
I love working in all kinds of media, but short story writing is my very favorite. Unfortunately, it’s hard to publish short stories with Jewish themes that aren’t completely laudatory. Perhaps one day I’ll have enough to be able to create a short story collection. In the meantime, enjoy this piece.
And Isaac said to Abraham, “I mean, do you even hear yourself talking right now? What kind of God would literally ask you to sacrifice your child — or any person, if we’re being totally honest about it? Why would you follow such a God?”
And Abraham said to Isaac, “Son, I’m a lot older than you and I think you’re missing some of the context here. God has been very important to the world. Very important. He’s the reason that ethical monotheism exists.”
And Isaac said to his father, “But this isn’t ethical.”
“I mean,” continued Abraham, not listening, “where would I be without God? Back in Ur? I’m an old man, I can’t just start over. And there is so much good there.”
“But this isn’t good,” said Isaac.
“No, it’s not good,” admitted Abraham. “But it’s part of a larger picture, and it’s part of a relationship. God is the Ruler of the Universe, so if we want things in this world to get better it makes sense to stick with Him. He gets more things done than Baal or any of the other gods. At some point it’s just a numbers game.”
“Did you ask Him to reconsider this?”
“Well, no,” said Abraham. “I don’t think I exactly have enough capital to do that right now, given that I just asked Him pretty brazenly to not kill everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
“Which God destroyed anyway,” pointed out Isaac.
“Yes, but at least we have a conversation about it,” said Abraham. “And if I just said no to God about every last thing, I wouldn’t even have that!”
“So you’re going to sacrifice me on that mountain because you want to be in conversations where God doesn’t listen to you?”
“It’s better than being just one more asshole cursing things out,” said Abraham. “Those people have no chance of making a difference.”
“At least they’re assholes with integrity,” pointed out Isaac.
“Integrity?” snorted Abraham. “Welcome to the real world, son.”
“Excuse me?” said Isaac, turning his head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that there’s already a million nut jobs yelling at God about every flood and earthquake and plague,” said Abraham, and he sounded just a little bit angry, which meant he was probably very angry. “You want me to be a nut job, too? You want your father to be a nut job?”
“Yes, to save my fucking life, dad!” cried Isaac. “How are you missing this?”
“I’m not saying it’s a good thing,” said Abraham, “But, I mean, on balance how can you even compare?”
“How can I compare things to my life, you mean?” said Isaac. “I mean, how could I not compare? Wouldn’t you compare if it was your life?”
“I don’t know, maybe — look,” said Abraham, breezing through. “I don’t want to keep fighting about this. I get that you don’t understand it, but this is the life I’ve chosen. There are different ways of making the world better, but this one is mine. Fundamentally, I believe that change from within works — slowly, but it works.”
They reached the mountain and Abraham bound his son. Just as he was about to bring the knife down on the boy’s neck, an angel appeared.
“Abraham, Abraham!” the angel said.
Abraham turned. “Oh, hello,” he said. “Where’s God?”
“God couldn’t make it,” apologized the angel. “Busy day. But I’m glad I caught you in time. God wanted me to tell you that He’s changed His mind; you don’t need to kill your son, He gets the idea. Oh, and He wanted me to give you this,” and the angel fished around in its radiant pants pockets for something, and then kept fishing, and after a couple of minutes Isaac could see that, whatever it was, the angel wasn’t going to find it, or maybe it had never been there in the first place.
“Oh!” The angel snapped its figures and looked up in feigned recognition. “How silly of me! I forgot that your gift is already here!”
“Here?” said Abraham excitedly. “Really? Where is it?”
“Uh…just look around,” ad-libbed the angel. “You’ll find it.”
“Is it that ram stuck in those bushes?” said Abraham.
“But of course,” said the angel, and Abraham beamed. He untied Isaac, took the ram, slaughtered it, and burned it in just the spot where Isaac had been minutes before. Isaac stared at the burning animal, flames almost singeing his own flesh, and shivered.
“God also said to tell you that He’s going to make you into a great nation,” said the angel.
“Hey, Isaac, did you hear that?” said Abraham.
“I heard, dad,” said Isaac quietly.
“Change from within, Isaac,” intoned Abraham. “Nothing ever happens without change from within.”
“Yeah, dad, I know,” said Isaac, staring into the fire to avoid his father’s gaze.
“Should we go home, son? The fire will be out soon and it’s a long walk back.”
Isaac let us a sigh from deep within his chest. “I guess so,” he said. “Do you think maybe we can keep talking about this, though? We never get to talk — to be honest, that’s the reason I said yes to coming on this trip in the first place, even though I didn’t know where we were going.”
“Of course!” laughed Abraham, and he slapped his son hard on the shoulder, squeezing his neck a little. “Whatever my son wants, my son gets!”
“Okay, dad,” said Isaac. “In that case, we can go home. It’s not like I have any other options.”
“We’ll be a great nation indeed,” said Abraham. And the two descended the mountain.
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