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Gymnastic Interpretations

Many times when I criticize a particular heinous verse of the Bible, religious believers will criticize me for taking the Bible too literally. They will claim that the verse is merely a metaphor. Sometimes they are correct, but not usually. It seems that religious believers will bend over backwards to find an interpretation that isn’t completely heinous.

One example of this comes from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s take on the Isaac story in a recent HuffPost article. We all know the actual story. Abraham is commanded by God to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice. At the last minute, God sends an angel to stop him because it seems clear that Abraham is actually going to do it. The angel claims that God was testing Abraham and he passed! The obvious interpretation of this story is that when you hear voices in your head telling you to kill your son, you should do it… well sort of. Most people see this as a test of faith. Will you follow God no matter how crazy or insane the command is? The answer should be yes.

But Rabbi Boteach talks about the interpretation by Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, which is to view Isaac as religion itself:

“The test, therefore, was this: Would Abraham follow G-d’s commandment to kill off his religion or would he put his religion before G-d’s will? What really mattered to Abraham? G-d or Judaism? And if they were to be put in conflict, what would he choose? The religious fanatic is the man or woman who has ceased to serve G-d and has begun worshipping their religion, making their faith into yet another false idol.”

In other words, this isn’t about God ordering Abraham to kill his son at all because that would be heinous. What self-respecting deity would actually expect a follower to kill their own child as a sacrifice to satisfy the deity’s ego? But the interpretation of the Isaac story is pretty obvious and yet we have a gymnastic interpretation put forth to defend the religion.

It seems to me that Rabbi Boteach is sacrificing common sense for his religion and in so doing; he is making his faith into yet another false idol.

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