Isaac/Ishmael and the High Holy Days

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The reconciliation of Isaac and Ishmael

- an additional reading for the High Holy Day

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Each year, as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approaches, during the month of Elul, I often send out the following suggestion to Rabbis and lay leaders about the Torah readings for the High Holy Days.

The traditional Rosh Hashanah Torah readings encompass the expulsion of Hagar & Ishmael and the binding of Isaac. It seems to me that in our generation, it would be of great value to add, either on Rosh Hashanah or precisely as a healing "after"-tshuvah marker for Yom Kippur, the passage of Gen 24: 7-18 which recount the reconciliation of Isaac and Ishmael at Abraham's burial. (For the first time, they are referred to together as "his sons.")

In this passage, Isaac goes to live at Be'er La'chai Ro'i, the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me, which was the well revealed to Hagar. In the last line, Ishmael dwells or settles facing all his brothers/ kinfolk (FULFILLING THE PEACEFUL END OF THE CONFRONTATIONAL PROPHECY IN GEN 16:12).

Whether this be taken as a vision of reconciliation at the level of our families and friends or at the level of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, I think it bears great value as a healing both from the previous traumatic texts and from our traumatic lives.

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