AKEDAH


AKEDAH (ʿAqedah; Heb. הָדֵקֲע, lit. "binding (of Isaac)"), the Pentateuchal narrative (Gen. 22:1–19) describing God's command to *Abraham to offer *Isaac, the son of his old age, as a sacrifice. Obedient to the command, Abraham takes Isaac to the place of sacrifice and binds him (va-ya'akod, Gen. 22:9, a word found nowhere else in the Bible in the active, conjugative form) on the altar. The angel of the Lord then bids Abraham to stay his hand and a ram is offered in Isaac's stead. The Akedah became in Jewish thought the supreme example of self-sacrifice in obedience to God's will and the symbol of Jewish martyrdom throughout the ages.

Critical View

The Akedah narrative is generally attributed to source E (which uses ʾElohim as the Divine Name) with glosses by the Redactor (R, hence also the use of the Tetragrammaton); or to source J (in which the Divine Name is the Tetragrammaton) which may have made use of E material (Peake's Commentary on the Bible (1962), 193). The original intent of the narrative has been understood by the critics either as an etiological legend explaining why the custom of child sacrifice was modified in a certain sanctuary by the substitution of a ram (Gunkel), or as a protest against human sacrifice (Skinner, Genesis (1910), 331–2). The name Moriah ("land of Moriah," Gen. 22:2) occurs elsewhere (II Chron. 3:1) as the name of the Temple site; hence the Jewish tradition that the Temple was built on the spot at which the Akedah took place. There is no further reference to the Akedah in the Bible.

The Akedah influenced both Christian and Islamic thought. In early Christian doctrine, the sacrifice of Isaac is used as a type for the sacrifice of Jesus (see Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, 3:18; Clement of Alexandria, Paedogogica, 1:5, 1; Schoeps, in: JBL, 65 (1946), 385–92). In Islam, the Akedah is held up for admiration (Koran 37:97–111), but the more accepted opinion is that it was Ishmael, Abraham's other son and the progenitor of the Arabs, who was bound on the altar and that the whole episode took place before Isaac's birth. The Akedah has been a favorite theme in religious art for centuries.

In Jewish Life and Literature

In the early rabbinic period, reference was made to Abraham's sacrifice in prayers of intercession. The Mishnah (Ta'an. 2:4) records that on public fast days the reader recited: "May He that answered Abraham our father on Mount Moriah answer you and hearken to the voice of your crying this day." The Mishnah also states (Ta'an. 2:1) that on fast days, ashes were placed on the Ark and on the heads of the nasi and the av bet din; a later teacher explained (Ta'an. 16a) that this was a reminder of the "ashes of Isaac." In the Zikhronot ("Remembrance") prayers of Rosh Ha-Shanah, there is an appeal to God to remember the Akedah: "Remember unto us, O Lord our God, the covenant and the lovingkindness and the oath which Thou swore unto Abraham our father on Mount Moriah: and consider the binding with which Abraham our father bound his son Isaac on the altar, how he suppressed his compassion in order to perform Thy will with a perfect heart. So may Thy compassion overbear Thine anger against us; in Thy great goodness may Thy great wrath turn aside from Thy people, Thy city, and Thine inheritance." One of the explanations given for the sounding of the shofar ("ram's horn") on Rosh Ha-Shanah is as a reminder of the ram substituted for Isaac (RH 16a). The story of the Akedah is the Pentateuchal reading on the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah (Meg. 31a). During the Middle Ages, a number of penitential hymns took the Akedah for their theme and indeed a whole style of piyyut is known by this name. Pious Jews recited the Akedah passage daily (Tur., OḤ. 1) and, following this custom, the passage is printed in many prayer books as part of the early morning service.

In Rabbinic Literature

The Akedah was spoken of as the last of the ten trials to which Abraham was subjected (Avot 5:3; Ginzberg, Legends, 5 (1925), 218, note 52) and was considered as the prototype of the readiness for martyrdom. "Support me with fires" (homiletical interpretation of Song 2:5) is said to refer to the fire of Abraham and that of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 3:12–23; PdRK 101b); this particular association is probably due to the fact that both cases illustrate not actual martyrdom but the readiness for it. On the other hand, numerous instances of real martyrdom were also compared to the Akedah, sometimes to the disadvantage of the latter. Thus in the story of the "Woman and her Seven Sons," every one of whom suffered death by torture rather than bow to the idol, the widow enjoins her sons: "Go and tell Father Abraham: Let not your heart swell with pride! You built one altar, but I have built seven altars and on them have offered up my seven sons. What is more: Yours was a trial; mine was an accomplished fact!" (Yal. Deut. 26). In the parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Git. 57b), the widow's admonition is softened through the omission of the second half of the first sentence and the last sentence.

In legal literature, the Akedah served as a paradigm for the right of a prophet to demand the temporal suspension of a law. Isaac obeyed his father and made ready to become the victim of what would normally have been considered a murder, but Abraham, as an established prophet, could be relied upon that this was really God's will (Sanh. 89b). The opinion is found in the Midrash (Gen. R. 56:8) that Isaac was 37 years old at the time of the Akedah. Abraham *Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:4) rejects this as contrary to the plain meaning of the narrative in which Isaac is old enough to carry the wood but young enough to be docile. Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:19) also quotes an opinion that Abraham actually did kill Isaac (hence there is no reference to Isaac returning home with his father), and he was later resurrected from the dead. Ibn Ezra rejects this as completely contrary to the biblical text. Shalom *Spiegel has demonstrated, however, that such views enjoyed a wide circulation and occasionally found expression in medieval writings, possibly in order to deny that the sacrifice of Isaac was in any way less than that of Jesus; or as a reflection of actual conditions in the Middle Ages when the real martyrdom of Jewish communities demanded a more tragic model than that of a mere intended sacrifice. It was known in those days for parents to kill their children, and then themselves, when threatened by the Crusaders. Geiger (JZWL, 10 (1872), 166ff.) suggests that interpretations of Isaac's sacrifice as a means of atonement for his descendants were influenced by Christian doctrine. In rabbinic literature, tensions can be generally observed between the need to emphasize the significance of the Akedah and, at the same time, to preserve the prophetic protest against human sacrifice. Thus, on Jeremiah 19:5 the comment is made: "which I commanded not" – this refers to the sacrifice of the son of Mesha, the king of Moab (II Kings 3:27); "nor spake it" – this refers to the daughter of Jephthah (Judg. 11:31); "neither came it to my mind" – this refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, the son of Abraham (Ta'an. 4a).

In Religious Thought

A theme of such dramatic power as the Akedah has attracted a rich variety of comment. Philo (De Abrahamo, 177–99) defends the greatness of Abraham against hostile criticism that would belittle his achievement. These critics point out that many others in the history of mankind have offered themselves and their children for a cause in which they believed – the barbarians, for instance, whose Moloch worship was explicitly forbidden by Moses, and Indian women who gladly practice Suttee. Philo argues, however, that Abraham's sacrifice was unprecedented in that he was not governed by motives of custom, honor, or fear, but solely by the love of God. Philo (ibid., 200–7) also gives an allegorical interpretation of the incident: Isaac means "laughter"; and the devout soul feels a duty to offer up its joy which belongs to God. God, however, in His mercy, refuses to allow the surrender to be complete and allows the soul to retain its joy. Worship is the most perfect expression of that joy.

Medieval thinkers were disturbed at the idea of God's testing Abraham, as if the purpose of the Akedah were to provide God with information He did not previously possess. According to Maimonides (Guide 3:24), the words "God tested Abraham" do not mean that God put him through a test but that He made the example of Abraham serve as a test case of the extreme limits of the love and fear of God. "For now I know that you fear God" (Gen. 22:12) means that God has made known to all men how far man is obliged to go in fearing Him. According to Naḥmanides (ed. by C.B. Chavel, 1 (1959), 125–6), the Akedah focuses on the problem of reconciling God's foreknowledge with human free will. God knew how Abraham would behave, but from Abraham's point of view, the test was real since he had to be rewarded not only for his potential willingness to obey, but for actually complying. *Sforno's elaboration of this thought (commentary to Gen. 22:1) is that Abraham had to transcend his own love of God by converting it from the potential to the actual, in order to resemble God whose goodness is always actual, the aim of creation being that man imitates his Creator.

The mystics add their own ideas to the Akedah theme. In the Zohar (Gen. 119b), the patriarchs on earth represent the various potencies (sefirot) in the divine realm: Abraham the Divine Lovingkindness, Isaac the Divine Power, and Jacob the Harmonizing Principle. Abraham is obliged to display severity in being willing to sacrifice his son, contrary to his own special nature as the "pillar of lovingkindness," and thus set in motion the process by which fire is united with water, mercy with judgment, so that the way can be paved for the emergence of complete harmony between the two in Jacob. This mirrors the processes in the divine realm by which God's mercy is united with His judgment so that the world can endure. The Ḥasidim read various subtleties of their own into the ancient story. One version states that Abraham and Isaac knew, in their heart of hearts, that the actual sacrifice would not be demanded but they went through the motions to demonstrate that they would have obeyed had it been God's will (*Elimelech of Lyzhansk, No'am Elimelech on Gen. 22:7). The true lover of God carries out even those religious obligations which are personally pleasant to him solely out of the love of God. Abraham obeyed the second command not to kill Isaac solely for this and for no other reason (Levi Isaac b. Meir, Kedushat Levi on Gen. 22:6). Another version is that when God wishes to test a man, He must first remove from him the light of full comprehension of the Divine, otherwise the trial will be incomplete. Abraham was ready to obey even in this state of "dryness of soul" (Israel b. Shabbetai of Kozienice, Avodat Yisrael on Gen. 22:14). The lesser Divine Name Elohim is, therefore, used at the beginning of the narrative, and not the Tetragrammaton, to denote that the vision in which the command was given was lacking in clarity. Abraham's greatness consisted in his refusal to allow his natural love for his son to permit him to interpret the ambiguous command as other than a command to sacrifice (Mordecai Joseph b. Jacob Leiner of Izbica, Mei ha-Shilo'aḥ on Gen. 22:7).

To the moralists (ba'alei ha-musar) the Akedah was a fertile text for the inculcation of religious and ethical values. For Isaiah *Horowitz (Shenei Luḥot ha-Berit, Va-Yera, end), the Akedah teaches that everything must be sacrificed to God, if needs be; how much more, then, must man be willing to give up his lusts for God. Moreover, whenever man has an opportunity of doing good, or refraining from evil, he should reflect that perhaps God is testing him at that moment as He tested Abraham.

The best-known treatment of the Akedah theme in general literature is that of Søren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling). Kierkegaard sees Abraham as the "knight of faith" who differs from the "ethical man"; for the latter the moral law is universal and it has a categorical claim to obedience; the "knight of faith," however, knows also of the higher obligation laid upon him as a free individual in his relationship to his God and this may involve him in a "teleological suspension of the ethical." Abraham is called upon to renounce for God all that he holds precious, including the ethical ideal to which he subscribes and which he has constantly taught. Consequently, Abraham did not know what duty had been imposed on him: to obey God's command or his ethical obligation? According to Kierkegaard, this tension between these two conflicting obligations is what characterized Abraham as a "knight of faith." Kierkegaard was the first thinker to posit the believer's doubts as the characteristic of religious life itself. Kierkegaard's position has been criticized by various Jewish thinkers.

Milton *Steinberg (Anatomy of Faith (1960), 147), rejected Kierkegaard's view as "unmitigated sacrilege. Which indeed is the true point of the Akedah, missed so perversely by Kierkegaard. While it was a merit in Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his only son to his God, it was God's nature and merit that He would not accept an immoral tribute. And it was His purpose, among other things, to establish that truth." Other thinkers such as J.B. Soloveitchik have found the Kierkegaardian insights fully compatible with Judaism. Ernst Simon (in Conservative Judaism, 12 (spring 1958), 15–19) believes that a middle position between the two is possible. Judaism is an ethical religion and would never in fact demand a teleological suspension of the ethical. Abraham is, therefore, ordered to stay his hand. The original command to sacrifice Isaac is a warning against too complete an identification of religion with naturalistic ethics.

Y. *Leibowitz went further than Kierkegaard by suggesting that the believer has the obligation to overcome his ethical duty and unconditionally obey the divine command. Leibowitz thus regarded the Akedah as a paradigm of religious life, a position unusual in Jewish thought, which generally maintains that the divine command is not opposed to ethical duty.

Kalonymus Shapira, the rabbi of Piaseczno, maintained that the meaning of the Akedah is that the divine command itself determines morality, thus adopting the "divine command morality" prevalent in Christian literature. He wrote:

The nations of the world, even the best of them, think that the truth is a thing in itself, and that God commanded truth because the truth is intrinsically True…. Not so Israel, who say "You God are truth"… and we have no truth beside Him, and all the truth found in the world is there only because God wished it and commanded it…Stealing is forbidden because the God of truth has commanded it… When God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it was true to sacrifice him and, had God not said later "neither do anything to him" it would have been true to slaughter him. (K. Shapira, Esh Kodesh, Jerusalem, 1960, 68)

Shapira's unusual position is an attempt to deal with the problem of theodicy in light of the horrors of the *Shoah. His exceptional treatment of the Akedah thus demonstrates that Jewish thought generally did not incorporate the theory of "divine command morality." The Akedah thus became a basis for justifying sacrifice and devotion, but because of the centrality of morality to Jewish tradition in general, and specifically to halakhah, it was only with Soloveitchik and Leibowitz that the Akedah became a paradigm of religious life itself.

[Louis Jacobs /

Avi Sagi (2nd ed.)]

In Israeli Culture

The akedah myth is used by Israeli society to understand itself. Moshe Shamir, a leading writer from the founders' generation called the akedah "the story of our generation" (Be-Kulmus Mahir ("Quick Notes"), 1960, p. 332). Changes in the attitudes to this myth point to shifts in the ways Israeli society approaches the meaning of its existence.

Two basic attitudes can be discerned in relation to the akedah. Whereas the first views the akedah as the deepest symbol of modern Israeli existence, epitomizing the Zionist revolution and the sacrifices it exacted, the second rejects both the myth and its implications.

The akedah myth has been sanctified by many Israeli writers. Uri Zevi Greenberg writes: "Let that day come…/ when my father will rise from his grave with the resurrection of the dead/ and God will command him as the people commanded Abraham./ To bind his only son: to be an offering – /… let that day come in my life! I believe it will."(Uri Zevi Greenberg, "Korban Shaharit" ("Morning Offering"), in: Sulam 1972 (13), pp. 145–147).

When speaking of the Zionist experience, Abraham Shlonsky writes, "Father/ take off your tallit and tefillin today/… and take your son on a distant lane/to mount Moriah" ("Hulin" ("Worldliness"), in: A. Shlonsky, Ketavim [Writings], vol. 2, (1954), p. 136). Hayyim Gouri writes of Isaac's descendants being "born with a knife in their hearts." (H. Gouri, "Yerushah" ("Heritage"), in: Shoshanat Ha-Ruhot ("Compass-Rose"), 1966). The relationship between Abraham and Isaac is also transformed in modern Hebrew literature. Contrary to the passive figure of the biblical story, the Isaac of Israeli literature is an active hero who initiates the akedah. Modern literature also lays greater emphasis than the biblical text on intergenerational cooperation, as if no rift divided the fathers offering the sacrifice from their sons. Isaac becomes the paradigmatic Zionist pioneer, representing an entire generation: rather than being passive victims, the modern Isaacs assume responsibility for their destiny and sacrifice themselves on the altar of national renaissance.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, when for the first time the generation of founders were too old to fight, and the post-independence generation of their children fought in their place, the akedah remained a powerful symbol, at least for some. The post-war collection of interviews, The Seventh Day: Soldiers Talk About the Six-Day War (Hebrew: Siaḥ Lohamim, 1967; English, 1970) records a father who said: "We do knowingly bring our boys up to volunteer for combat units…. These are moments when a man is given a greater insight into Isaac's sacrifice. Kierkegaard asked what Abraham did that night. What did he think about? … He had a whole night to think…. It's a question that touches on the very meaning of human existence. The Bible says nothing about it… For us, that night lasted six days" (p. 202).

Conversely, doubts about the akedah myth already began to surface soon after independence. In the central work about the War of Independence, by S. Yizhar, we read: "There is no evading the akedah… I hate our father Abraham, who binds Isaac. What right does he have over Isaac? Let him bind himself. I hate the God who sent him and closed all paths, leaving only that of the akedah. I hate the fact that Isaac serves merely as a test between Abraham and his God… (S. Yizhar, Yemei Ziklag ("The Days of Ziklag"), 1958, vol. 2, p. 804).

After the Six-Day War, a gradual change in attitude towards the akedah evolved. In 1968, about 10 years after the publication of Yizhar's novel, Habimah Theater staged a play by Yigal Mossinsohn where Shimshon, a blinded officer, thinks of his life in terms of an akedah (Yigal Mossinsohn, Shimshon Katsin be-Ẓahal, O Requiem le-Ereẓ Pelishtim ("Samson the IDF officer, or Requiem to the Land of the Philistines)). Mossinsohn states his wish to be released from this "grand" myth. In his view, fathers and sons are jointly responsible for the akedah, which must end. In its place, Mossinsohn-Shimshon expects to lead a normal life when "my children… will no longer know war."

In May 1970, Habimah Theater staged a play by Hanoch Levin. ("Malkat Ha-Ambatyah" ("Queen of the Bath"), in: H. Levin, Mah Ikhpat la-Ẓippor ("What Does it Matter to the Bird?"), 1987). The play deals with the sons' profound contempt for their parents and, in a passage called "Akedah," Abraham and Isaac engage in a rather mundane and sarcastic dialogue, conveying deep disdain for the parents who believe that they, rather than their sons, are the victims of the sacrifice. In the poem "Dear father, when you stand on my grave," which follows the "Akedah" dialogue, Levin writes, "And do not say that you've brought a sacrifice,/ because I was the one who brought the sacrifice,/… dear father, when you stand on my grave/ old and weary and very lonesome,/ and when you see how they lay my body to rest – / ask for my forgiveness, father" (p. 92).

The weariness and pain of the akedah come to the fore after the Yom Kippur war. Thus, for instance, Menahem Heyd writes: "And there was no ram – / and Isaac in the thicket.// And the angel did not say lay not/ and we – / our son, our only son, Isaac." ("Yiẓhak Halakh le-Har Moriah" ("Isaac Went to Mount Moriah"), Yedi'oth Aharonot, December 28, 1973.) The pain is particularly intense because no ram came to replace Isaac. Many poets report this feeling – the miracle failed.

In Yariv Ben Aharon's roman à clef – Peleg (1993) about the sons' generation, the akedah becomes the litmus test of the relations between fathers and sons: the fathers will not be satisfied with less than the sons' sacrifice (p. 116). The covenant of secular Zionists with their land forced the actual sacrifice of their children, and the akedah no longer symbolized an act of faith but an expression of the deep bond with the land. Ben Aharon blames the parents for the secular distortion of the religious symbol and desires to restore its religious connotations. He thereby seeks to bring about a quasi-religious renaissance, in the tradition of A.D. Gordon, and rejects the prevalent secular overtones of Zionist culture, where the akedah served to justify the death of the sons.

Protests against the akedah myth gained strength after the Lebanon War. Yehudah Amihai speaks of a plot to sacrifice the sons: "The true hero of the akedah was the ram" (Y. Amihai, "Ha-Gibor ha-Amiti shel Ha-Akedah" ("The True Hero of the Sacrifice"), in: She'at Hesed [("The Hour of Grace") 1983). Replacing the two heroic figures, Abraham and Isaac, with an antihero – the ram – is part of a trend seeking to moderate the dramatic overtones characteristic of Israeli life. The hero is not the one involved in purposeful action, but rather the one confronted with a tragic situation and unable to understand the forces that have led to it.

A poem by Yitzhak Laor offers the most poignant expression of this protest: "To pity the offering?… To trust a father like that? Let him kill him first. Let him slam his father/ his only father Abraham/ in jail in the poorhouse in the cellar of the house just so/ he will not slay./ Remember what your father did to your brother Ishmael (Y. Laor, "Ha-Metumtam ha-Zeh Yiẓhak" ("This Fool, Isaac"), in: Rak ha-Guf Zokher ("Only the Body Remembers"; 1985), p. 70).

Yizhar had adopted the akedah story but had pointed an accusing finger at the fathers, while Mossinsohn longed for release from its oppressive weight. Laor now blames the sons' compliance, their willingness to die rather than refuse. He rejects the narrative: the sons should have remembered the cruelty of the founding fathers, father Abraham, and their immoral behavior toward Ishmael, the Arabs. This poem exposes a deep breach between fathers and sons, between founders and followers. To a large extent, it also entails a rejection of the entire Zionist ethos.

[Avi Sagi (2nd ed.)]

In the Arts

Among Christian writers and artists the biblical account of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice Isaac was interpreted as a foretelling of the crucifixion of Jesus. A parallel was drawn between the two stories: Abraham was God the Father sacrificing his "only begotten son"; Isaac himself carrying the wood to the altar was Jesus bearing his cross; while the ram actually sacrificed represented the crucified savior. In Western literature the episode occurs from the Middle Ages onward in various dramatic forms and in different countries. It figures in all the important English miracle play cycles and in an early work of the Eastern Church, the Cretan Sacrifice of Abraham (1159), where God's design is revealed, but the ram escapes slaughter. An example of the Italian sacre rappresentazioni is Feo Belcari's Abramo e Isacco (1449), while there is a more austere treatment in the 16th-century Spanish Auto del sacrificio de Abraham. The theme enjoyed special popularity among Protestants. Théodore de Bèza (Beza), the French humanist and reformer who was a close associate of Calvin in Geneva, gave his drama Abraham sacrifiant (1550) the conventional form of a mystery. It was notable for some revolutionary undertones, however, Abraham appearing as a stern Huguenot, humanized by love for his son. This play was widely translated and often reprinted. In the 17th century, the German dramatist Christian Weise wrote the play Die Opferung Isaacs (1680). Among the strict Protestants of the 18th century there were two Swiss German authors who dealt with the episode. Johann Jacob Bodmer wrote Abraham (1778), and Johann Kaspar Lavater the religious drama Abraham und Isaak (1776). Adele Wiseman's The Sacrifice (1956) transposes the story to a modern Canadian setting.

Jewish artists portrayed the Akedah in some synagogues of the early centuries of the current era, notably at *Dura-Europos (third century) and *Bet Alfa (sixth century). In both cases the hand of God was depicted as stretching forth to restrain Abraham from sacrificing his son. This is in direct conflict with the biblical text (Gen. 22:11), which states that he was restrained by the voice of an angel. Later Jewish sources are French and German Hebrew Bibles of the late 13th century, the 14th-century Spanish Sarajevo Haggadah, and a 15th-century Italian mahzor, which contains pictures illustrating the Aramaic piyyutim on the Ten Commandments recited on the festival of Shavuot. The illustration of the sacrifice of Isaac accompanies the fifth Commandment, and Isaac's willingness to follow his father is seen as an example of filial piety. There are early Christian representations of the story in the third-century Roman catacomb of Priscilla, in the Vatican grottos, and in glass, ivory, and jewels. Later examples have been found in the cathedrals of Chartres and Verona, and in churches elsewhere. During the early Renaissance, Donatello and Ghiberti produced work on the theme, as did Andrea del Sarto, Sodoma, Titian, Beccafumi, and Cranach later in the 16th century. Caravaggio gave it emotionally realistic treatment, and *Rembrandt depicted the angel's intervention in a painting of 1635 and in an etching in which the angel grips Abraham's arm with one hand and protects Isaac's face with the other. Guardi and Tiepolo treated the subject with the 18th-century lightness.

The melody of the Judeo-German Akedah poem, which was used for liturgical, religious, and historical songs in both Hebrew and German, is shown by the indication be-niggun Akedah (i.e., to be sung "to the Akedah tune"). The melody is first mentioned by Jacob *Moellin (Sefer Maharil, 49b). Another similar indication – be-niggun "Juedischer Stamm" – refers to the same tune. No notation of this time has been found so far, but A.Z. Idelsohn suggested that it was identical with the liturgical Akedot of the old west-Ashkenazi tradition. In European music there are at least 50 works on the sacrifice of Isaac, mostly oratorios. As in literature and art, the Akedah is often linked with the Crucifixion, Metastasio have stated this explicitly in the textbook title of his libretto Isacco, figura del Redentore (1740). The Viennese court oratorio owes its inception and style to the Emperor Leopold I's "sepolcro" Il sacrificio d'Abramo (1660), which was performed in the court church during Passion Week. Many eminent 18th-century musicians composed settings for Metastasio's libretto which was originally written for the Viennese court. Popular German oratorios include J.H. Rolle's Abraham auf Moria (1776) and M. Blumner's Abraham (1859–60). In Poland the biblical story inspired an opera by Chopin's teacher, Ks. J. Elsner (1827), and an oratorio by W. Sowński (1805–1880). In Abraham *Goldfaden's Yiddish "biblical operetta" Akeydas Yitskhok (1897), the Akedah itself figures only near the end of the work. Hugo Adler wrote an Akedah (1938), based on the Buber-Rosenzweig German translation of the Bible and on selections from the Midrash and Akedot piyyutim, which was modeled on the classical oratorio. Igor Stravinsky's Akedat Yizhak (Abraham and Isaac), a "sacred ballad" for baritone and chamber orchestra set to a Hebrew text, was first performed in Jerusalem in 1964.

See also: *Abraham in the Arts and, *Isaac in the Arts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

S.J. Zewin, Le-Or ha-Halakhah (19643), 165–75; S. Spiegel, The Last Trial (1969). IN THE ARTS: T. Ehrenstein, Das Alte Testament im Bilde (1923), 181–202; Idelsohn, Music, table XXV no. 7 and pp. 170, 380–1, 383; Idelsohn, Melodien, 7 (1932), XLIV nos. 256, 312a; N.H. Katz and L. Waldbott, Die traditionellen Synagogen-Gesaenge, pt. 2 (1868), 73–74; A. Baer, Ba'al Te'fillah (1883), no. 1320; S. Scheuermann, Gottesdienstliche Gesaenge der Israeliten… (1912), 49; A. de Bèze, in: N.J.E. Rothschild, Le Mistère du Viel Testament, 2 (1879), xlix–lxii (bibliography). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Sagi, "The Meaning of the Akedah in Israeli Culture and Jewish Tradition," in: Israel Studies 3:1 (1998), 45–60. A. Sagi and D. Statman, Religon and Morality (1995); A. Sagi, Kierkegaard, Religion and Existence (2000); A. Sagi and D. Statman, "Divine Command Morality and Jewish Tradition," in: Journal of Religious Ethics, 23:1 (1995), 39–68.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.