Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More on Isaac's resurrection

After yesterday's post, the great Miriam Shaviv contacted me with some additional sources that speak of Issaac being brought back from the dead following the Akeida. She says they were (for the most part) compiled from The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice, by Sholom Spiegel

As I mention on yesterday's thread, this line of interpretation seems to begin with Genesis 22:19, where only Abraham is described as having returned from Moriah:
וַיָּ֤שָׁב אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶל־ נְעָרָ֔יו וַיָּקֻ֛מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ יַחְדָּ֖ו אֶל־ בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְרָהָ֖ם בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע
And Abraham returned to his attendants and together they set off and traveled to Be'er Sheva. And  Abraham settled in Be'er Sheva.

Indications that Jewish tradition embraced the idea that Abragam returned alone because  Isaac was actually killed at the Akeida and later resurrected include the quote from Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer I cited yesterday, as well as the following additional sources provided by Ms. Shaviv:
[When the generations that returned from the Babylonian exile began to build the second temple,] “How did they know what to do with the altar? Said R. Eleazar: They beheld the altar all built and Michael, the Great Prince, stood by it sacrificing on it. But R. Isaac Napha said: They beheld Isaac’s ashes, that these lay on that spot. - Zevachim 62a
The suggestion here is that the ashes were literal ashes and that they remained on the spot as a sign for the Returnees from Exile. Indeed Rashi picks up this idea of the ever-lasting ashes on Leviticus 26:52, where God is said to remember Abraham and Jacob, but not Isaac.
And why is the expression “remembering” not used with Isaac? [Because] Isaac’s ashes Bereishith Rabbah 56:9; Tanchuma Shelach 14) [always] appear before Me, gathered up and placed upon the altar“ [and therefore, God does not have to ”remember" Isaac, for Isaac is never forgotten].
The Midrash Lekach Tov (11th century) develops the idea further
“The God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac: for Isaac was in the grip of fear as he lay bound on the top of the altar, and his soul flew out of him, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, restored it to him by means of the dewdrops for Resurrection of the dead”
Shibboley Haleket Hashalem (13th century)adds:
“When Father Isaac was bound on the altar and reduced to ashes and his sacrificial dust was cast on to Mount Moriah, the Holy One, blessed by He, immediately brought upon him dew and revived him. That is why David, may he rest in peace, said: ‘Like the dew of Hermon that cometh down from the mountains of Zion’ etc [Ps. 133:3] – for he is referring to that dew with which [the Holy One, blessed by He] revived Father Isaac. Forthwith the ministering angels began to recite, Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who quickens the dead
Another clue comes from the Rabininc commentary on Genesis 27:27, the verse that tells us the Issac caught the scent of Jacob's clothing prior to blessing him, and was reassured, saying: Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!

The midrash Tanchuma says that Isaac is, in fact, referring to the scent of Gan Eden. Can a man recognize the odor of a place he's never visited?

Cold water, however is provided by ibn Ezra who says:
“And Abraham returned: And Isaac is not mentioned… But he who asserts that Abraham slew Isaac and abandoned him, and that afterwards Isaac came to life again, is speaking against scripture”
I am not sure what ibn Ezra intends to convey with the phrase "speaking against scripture" but I will point out that on several occasions ibn Ezra is accused by others of speaking against Chazal and their interpretations  It would appear that his denial of Isaac's resurrection is another example of this habit of his.

Conclusion: I am ready to say that the Christian idea of resurrection was co-opted from our Isaac stories, stories that were cast aside and forgotten as Christianity became prominent. Who agrees?

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