written and presented by Arthur Strimling, Sam Craig and Stacey Simon
Arthur: After God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, father and son walk for three days before reaching Mt. Moriah. Torah tells us nothing about that excruciating journey, so Sam and Stacey and I, with help from the great Marty Ehrlich, have tried to imagine what happened between Abraham and Isaac, as they journeyed, and to Sarah who is never mentioned in the text.
Arthur: Day 1:
Abraham: Isaac … Isaac, wake up!
Isaac: Why, it’s still dark
A: We are going on a journey.
A: To a place that God will show us
I: Five more minutes?
A: No, now. Get up, get dressed! We leave soon. Everything is ready.
I: Is Ima coming?
A: No just you and me … and the servants. And the donkey
I: Can I ride the donkey?
A: If there’s room
I: OK, I’ll get dressed and say goodbye to Ima, and …
A: NO! … let her sleep.
I: Shouldn’t I say goodbye? Won’t she worry?
A: No, I told her we’re going. She needs her sleep. Just get ready and meet me by the woodshed.
I: Are we there yet?
A: No, but we’re getting there
I: We’re going to make a sacrifice, aren’t we?
A: How do you know?
I: Because we have wood and the cleaver and the stone
A: Smart boy. “a male without defect”
I: I hate sacrifices
A: Ours is not to like or dislike. If God asks we must answer.
I: [Pause] Are we there yet?
A: No, but we’re getting there.
Sarah: Where did they go?! Where did he take my boy?
Can’t trust him with my Isaac. He hears God and he takes off. Never thinks in the singular – too busy worrying about a nation, the grand future; his children’s children’s children … All these years... there's no changing him. Sometimes I have to draw the line, and God hears me. Heard me when I had to protect Isaac from Ishmael… I had to …
I: I’m glad you brought me, not Ishmael
A: Ishmael? Ishmael is gone
I: But I know you visit him and Auntie Hagar
A: Do you!
I: Ima knows too. But she said not to say anything.
A: Oh … thank you for telling me.
I: So I know you could have chosen him, but you chose me
A: Well, actually God chose you
I: Did God say to you?
A: Yes. He said ‘Take your son, your only one, the one you love, Isaac.’
I: God really said that?
A: Yes, does that make you feel special?
I: Yes …. Will God speak to me too?
A: God speaks to you in every moment, if you listen.
I: Are we there yet?
A: Not yet, but we’re getting there.
Arthur: Day 2:
I: Abba, is that a vulture up there circling?
A: Looks like an eagle, a messenger from God guiding us to our destination.
I: No, eagles have shorter beaks, that’s a vulture
A: Well, my eyes are dim, I can’t see as well as you.
I: [Pause] Abba, teach me something
A: All right. Keep walking, and as we go, I’ll teach you the names of trees, for “out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food;” Now those with the flat short needles are cedars, and you know what those over there are?
I: Almond trees and figs and olives.
A: Smart boy! And that wide one with the thick leaning trunk, that’s a Cyprus like father Noah used to build the ark. And over along the top of that hill, the line of tall skinny ones, those are poplars.
I: Is that where we’re going?
A: God will reveal the place, when He is ready.
I: I’m tired. Can we stop and rest?
Sarah: God! Do you hear me now? Sh’ma, listen up! I’m afraid for Isaac! Abraham can’t be trusted to take care of my boy!
What are they up to? The cleaver’s gone. And the firestone …. wood. A sacrifice! He took the donkey and two servants…. How far will he go?
I: Can I carry the cleaver?
A: All right.
I: And I can sharpen it too. I practiced. [Pause]
Abba, why do you have to sacrifice a sheep? It’s not fair. Why should you kill a living breathing creature instead of something that doesn’t have its own life? Why do you have to sacrifice?
A: God requires sacrifice.
I: But the sheep didn’t do anything wrong.
A: Don’t worry about the sheep. The sheep doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and it feels … nothing, really, because I make the cut clean and very fast.
I: Why does God want us to kill sheep and cows and pigeons for Him? Doesn’t God have His own food?
A: God wants us to show our love for Him by a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
I: Doesn’t god love the lamb too?
A: … YES! God loves the lamb with all his heart
I: Then why does He want us to kill it?
A: God’s ways are mysterious.
I: Does the lamb love God too?
A: Sheep don’t know about God. Sheep are dumb animals. Only humans have consciousness, so we can know God.
I: [Pause] Are we there yet?
A: No …
I: But we’re getting there, right?
Arthur: Day 3:
I: Why do we have to walk so far?
A: Because God is testing us. God puts us in difficult situations to show us how strong we are. If you never walked this far, you would not know that you could. Now you are doing it, so you know that you are strong. And now, God can challenge you even more, to show you that you have courage and strength to withstand even ...
A: … God needs our perfect faith
I: [Points up high] Is that the place?
I: It’s high up
A: Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We’ll get there soon enough.
I: I’m hungry
A: Yes, let’s stop for lunch
I: Can I throw this stone over the side and count to see how long it takes to hit the ground? It’s an experiment. [Make throwing motion … listen/count]
A: Hineni, my son.
I: Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the sacrifice?
A: God will see to the sheep for the sacrifice, my son.
I: [Pause] Abba ….
A: [Pause. They look at each other] Yes!
A: Now, boy, help me lift these stones for the altar
A: Now, climb up there.
I: No, I don’t want to be a sacrifice
A: You helped me build this altar. You knew and still you helped. You can’t turn back now. God commands you. God will not, I will not let you suffer. Now lie down on top of the wood ….
Sarah: ABRAHAM! ABRAHAM!
Sam: [Steps forward] “Abraham and Isaac lifted up their eyes and saw there a ram caught behind in the thicket by its horns!
Abraham went, he took the ram and offered it up as an offering in place of his son.” [Steps back]
I: In place of me!
Sarah: Our child? OUR child! Yes he belongs to God, but first he’s ours. Ours! Who will he be after this? Is this some kind of test? Of your faith? Of God? Of me? Getting even with me for something? For Ishmael?
God, are you punishing me for Ishmael? Is this to make up for that? I can’t make any sense of it!
A: I love you, son
I: You were going to kill me.
A: God commanded me. I had no choice.
I: I had a choice, why didn’t you? [Pause] I cannot love you any more.
A: That does not matter. What matters is that you still love God! You must.
I: God would have my father slit my throat. You say the ram doesn’t know, but I am human; I know what God and you almost did to me.. How can I love God? I don’t know…. I don’t know God…. I don’t know.
Arthur: “And Abraham returned to his servants, and they went to Be’er-Sheva.” [Exits]
Stacey: “Sarah's lifetime -- the span of Sarah's life -- came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Sarah died in Kiriath-arbe -- now Hebron -- in the land of Canaan.”
Sarah: My story doesn’t end with my last breath. I did not lose Isaac. When he married Rebecca, he brought her to live in my tent. And they had children, who had children, who had children, and on and on, until now … you. So many of you, and some still visit my grave.
Honor my life. Let it teach you that your life, like mine, hangs in the balance. Everything you believe and love and trust can be shattered in an instant. Trust, health, love … shattered. Utter brokenness. It can happen. Embrace that and then, still, live your life, a full life.
Honor my death. Listen for my voice in the wailing of the shofar. I am crying out to you: Remember, remember my tears, remember my laughter, remember my trials. And God will remember me, again.