Three Knots in the Binding of Isaac

Poems by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 11/22/2004


Bony Abraham,
vibrating bone on bone
to wails and screams all night from Isaac's tent,
heard echo finally
inside his skull
the call: "Just kill the kid,

Thank God!"

Never slept that night —
Ran morning quick
to gather
knife, rope, wood,

Bent fumbling with the rope
to bind his son,
sweating over knots,
he never heard
a sonorous angelic
". . .Abraham . . ."

The knife began to plunge, and
Only when his skull exploding
shrieked again,
loud as loud three nights before,

Did he lift up his eyes.

The ram seemed pretty simple-minded
as a substitute. But
the kid stopped screaming.
And never did talk back again.


The Voice came, unmistakable: "Kill Isaac."

So Abraham tested God.

Thought: [No point in arguing again.
We just went through that dance about Sodom.
I taught You justice,
what it is
and isn't.]

[All right, I'm ready.
My hand will force Your hand.
Are You a murderer or not?]

Said: "Here I am."


"Abraham! You toss Me prayers
like chocolate kisses
But when I chew them over,
sweet melting,
there's no nourishment.
You praise Me as the Breast that Nourishes,
The Weaver who webs the universe,
But you won't believe that
I'm a killer.

"How could I weave this tallis of the morning
Without dark threads of death?
The water that moves through me into breast-milk
comes bitter to My mouth
from bloody tears.

"You say you are My friend?
Then spare Me all that sweetness
And try a little truth.

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