Reconciling Ishmael and Isaac for Yom Kippur

In Chayei Sarah (Gen 25: 7-11) not only are Ishmael and Isaac for the first time called “Abraham’s sons” (plural and together) as they come together to bury their dangerous father, but in verse 11 we are told that Isaac settled at Be’er Lachai Ro’i, Well of the Living One Who Sees Me. This is the well that was named by Hagar during her first troubled venture into the wilderness while she is pregnant with Ishmael and then finds the Well again in her travail with the teen-age Ishmael in the wilderness, the well that perhaps was renewed by her tears that “opened her eyes.” (Gen. 16: 9-16 and 21: 15-21)  It surely became Ishmael’s wellspring as well (you might say). So the two brothers do at last come to live together. There is ample evidence back in chapters 16 and 21 that Torah affirms the blessing of God to Ishmael.

 For decades, Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I have always, whenever we had the responsibility to lead Torah reading on Yom Kippur, have made sure that the passage of Genesis 25: 7-11 is read from the Torah as a crowning story for the two readings on Rosh Hashanah – making a tikkun and a tshuvah of the earlier stories, as the Torah Herself does the work of tshuvah that we are taught to do during the Ten Days that are fulfilled by Yom Kippur.  We believe that failing to lift this reading in  the same way as the expulsion of Ishmael and the Binding of Isaac are lifted from their regular places for Rosh Hashanah is a failure in our own duty of Tshuvah, and we believe that raising the Genesis 25 passage to special Yom Kippur consciousness could help lead us to a new approach to peacemaking between Muslims and Jews, Palestine and Israel. 

I commend that Yom Kippur practice to others, as well as the practice at the original Elat Chayyim and for decades now at Congr Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia of ending Kaddish always with --  “Oseh shalom ... alenu v’al kol Yisrael v’al kol Yishmael v’al kol yoshvei tevel.”   


Jewish and Interfaith Topics: 

Torah Portions: