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Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam$
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David L. Weddle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780814764916

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814764916.001.0001

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Sacrifice in Jewish Tradition

Sacrifice in Jewish Tradition

(p.47) 3 Sacrifice in Jewish Tradition
Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

David L. Weddle

NYU Press

After Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70CE, Jewish tradition reimagined animal sacrifices as devotional acts, such as prayer, fasting, and study of Torah, as well as giving up individual desires to fulfil God’s will. Rabbis interpreted the story of Abraham’s binding Isaac for sacrifice (the Akedah) as the model of absolute obedience to divine commands (mitzvoth) and as the basis for the election of the Jewish people to bear witness to the one God. Their commentary, however, included the horrified reaction of Sarah’s scream to the news of Abraham’s act, ending in her death, indicating dissent from sacrifice as religious ideal. Rabbinic tradition transferred the site of sacrifice from temple to synagogue in rituals of High Holy Days, to the family table in Passover and Sabbath rituals, and to the individual will in submission to Torah. In the mystical teaching of Kabbalah, God sacrifices to create the world and Jews are called to sacrifice to redeem the world (tikkun olam). Such vocation of redemptive suffering was called into question by the Holocaust, and some contemporary Israeli poets refer to the Akedah in expressing misgivings about calls to sacrifice in defense of Israel.

Keywords:   animal sacrifice, Akedah, Sarah’s scream, High Holy Days, Kabbalah, tikkunolam, Holocaust

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