Bound

 

 

Bound

By Richard Jay Goldstein

 

 

 

It comes again, light as bright as lightning, as a desert sun at midday. And sharp pain, behind his eyes, his temples.
 
In absolute darkness and intolerable bright light he feels the awful meshing of contradictions. Nothing is sequential, there is only simultaneity. He expects a voice, and a voice comes, not heard, but felt in every part of his body. The voice consumes every bit of his awareness. He just has time to kneel on the rocky ground before he is overwhelmed. He is unaware of his body toppling forward.
 
“Abraham,” says the voice.
 
“I am here,” says Abraham silently, but he does not know where here is. There is a contraction and an expansion, at the same moment, an infinite moment which has no duration.
 
“Sacrifice Isaac to me,” says the voice. “On a mountain I will show you.”
 
Slowly, Abraham regains consciousness. Slowly, he becomes aware of himself, lying face-down on the ground. There is dirt in his mouth, in his eyes. His nose and forehead are bleeding. His teeth ache and his knee is twisted painfully. He sits up carefully, straightens his leg, spits out dirt, rubs his eyes clear, looks up.
 
A shape shadows the sun. He squints. It is Sarah, his wife. She takes his arm and helps him to his feet, hobbles with him into the shade of the terebinth and oak trees, to the tent, his tent. It is only a few yards, but the journey seems to take a long time. Sarah’s own tent is further, deeper into the shade.
 
“I saw you fall,” she says. “Did you trip? Are you drunk?” She sniffs at his breath.
 
“No,” he says, roughly, as if he has not spoken for a year. “The voice.”
 
“God,” she says. There is patience and impatience in the way she says the word.
 
“Yes,” he mutters, and pulls his arm away. He stumbles on his sore knee and she takes his arm back.
 
“What this time?” she asks. “Where are we going now?”
 
They arrive at his tent. Sarah pulls the door-cloth aside and helps Abraham onto cushions, pulls the door closed against the midday heat. Leaf shadow plays across the brown wool tent fabric. It is cooler here. Water trickles outside, falling from the spring into the oasis pool, a comforting sound.
 
“We’re not going anywhere,” he says. He eases his leg onto a cushion. “You’re not, anyway. I may. Or I may not. But we will not move camp.”
 
*
 
I am Isaac. I am old now, and I doze in the sun. I no longer see well, but I remember many things well.
 
I was always afraid of my parents, especially my father. They are both gone now. I remember that my father always seemed old, even when I was very young. And my mother seemed almost as old as he did. Together they were a wall of certainty. I was the second son, of my father. Of my mother, I was the first, and only.
 
My father’s first son is called Ishmael. His mother was Hagar, who had been the servant of my mother. They left our camp when I was small, and I knew little of them. I never knew why they left, or where they went, or what became of them, but I think my parents did. There was a story I was never told, of how these things came to be. They never spoke of Ishmael or of Hagar, and I was afraid to. I have seen and talked with Ishmael since, though not in a long time. Not since we buried our father Abraham, which together we did.
 
Abraham, my father, had falling fits. It was said that when he had these, he spoke with God. I do not know whether this was true or not. He did not discuss any of this with me. But I did not, and do not, see how the Lord of all things could funnel himself down to speak to a single man, even my father.
 
My father was also very rich. We had many camels, many goats and sheep, many slaves, and many free-born who traveled with us. Our camp had three score tents, counting the women’s tents. Although my eyes are weak, I can see and hear and smell it all now, as I sit dozing. The murmur and singing of the women, the squeals and crying of the children, the laughing of the men. The baying of camels, braying of donkeys, bleating of sheep and goats. The smell of fire and food and dung and sweat. I recall that when we camped near a city, the men of the city treated my father with great respect, for he was a proud warrior, and a wise man, and a leader of many men. We claimed the use of many wells.
 
In those days we moved our camp often, more than new grazing required. The men said this was because God told my father when to move, and where to go, and where to stop. If this was true, it seemed to me, God took unusual interest in our small tribe.
 
I spent little time with my father, because he spent little time with anyone, in those days when his falling fits came often. But I recollect a particular day when my father took me with him to sacrifice on a distant mountain of which he said God had told him. I was sixteen, a man already, although I lived still in my mother’s tent, when I was not out with the herds and flocks.
 
I remember clearly our journey of three days, and seeing the mountain appear and grow larger. I remember climbing the path to the summit. I even remember asking my father what animal we would sacrifice. But then I remember nothing until I seemed to awake and found myself alone with my mother, climbing down from the mountain on a steep path. I never knew how she came to be there. And we did not return to our camp at Beersheba, but went instead to Hebron, where my mother had friends. I rarely saw or spoke to my father after that. Whenever I did see him I felt a strange aversion.
 
Even now I do not like to think of this. So I will stretch out in the warm sun and think of other things.
 
*
 
“Why must you go?” asks Sarah. “There are plenty of hills around here. Why can’t you sacrifice on one of them? You have before.”
 
Abraham lifts his iron axe, valued at twenty-five camels, swings it fiercely at an oak limb. Chips fly.
 
Tell me why,” demands Sarah.
 
“You know why,” says Abraham. He swings the axe again, then winces as his knee grips him, his knee which twisted when he fell, drowning in vision.
 
Sarah wrings her hands together. “Because God tells you,” she says, more harshly than she means to. “As if you were a child who must do as he is told.”
 
“Yes,” says Abraham.
 
Sarah looks intently at Abraham. “What has happened to you?” she says finally. “Where is the brave man who feasted the three strange men from the desert, the ones who spoke with a single voice, and who might have turned out to be demons for all we knew? Where is the man who argued with God before Sodom?”
 
“That was then,” says Abraham, “this is now.”
 
“But why must you take Isaac?” she asks. This is the heart of what she wants to say. “He’s just a boy. You don’t need him.”
 
“It’s time Isaac learned how to sacrifice to the Lord.” He swings the axe once more, ignoring his knee. Chips fly. “And he is not a boy,” he mutters.
 
What does Sarah suspect? But she is a mother. There is something afoot, this she knows.
 
And Abraham? His dark face is closed. His big hands grip the wooden axe handle fiercely. The muscles of his neck stand out like the scarps of mountains.
 
“There is no reason to drag Isaac who-knows-where just so he can watch you kill a goat,” says Sarah.
 
“Sarah!” barks Abraham. He punches the axe into the oak, where it sticks, turns to face her. “It’s the voice. You know that. I cannot disobey.”
 
“What does the voice say, that you cannot disobey?”
 
“It says to go and sacrifice at a mountain I will be shown, and to take Isaac.” He drops his eyes.
 
Sarah knows, must know, he is telling her less than all there is to tell. But she does not know how to penetrate the granite of his words. She turns away and disappears into her tent.
 
It is early morning. Thin fingers of sunlight feel through dust and smoke. There is a chill in the air.
 
Abraham emerges from his tent, wrapped in a wool shawl. He kicks at the guy ropes of another tent. There are muffled voices from within. In a moment two boys stumble out
 
Abraham shuffles across the camp to Sarah’s tent. He stands by the door, whispers harshly. “Isaac.”
 
The door-cloth twitches aside. Isaac is ready. He steps out, also wrapped in a woolen shawl. Behind the door, Sarah peers out, eyes dry, her mouth set. Isaac is excited to be traveling with his father. He is also a little frightened.
 
The servant boys, still half-asleep, have put a pack saddle on a donkey. Abraham quickly loads the wood he has chopped onto the pack and ties it down. He takes up a bag with his firestones, ties it around his waist, takes up his precious iron knife with its bone grip, and sticks it in his belt. The knife is worth less than the iron axe, but still has great value.
 
Abraham sets Isaac on top of the wood on the donkey, and hangs wine and water goatskins from the pack saddle. The two boys sling bags of supplies onto their shoulders, and the four of them set out. Five, counting the donkey.
 
As Abraham and the boys and the donkey wind their way down into the wadi Sarah steps out of her tent. She is also wrapped in a woolen shawl, and she is holding a staff. Her new sandals are strapped to her feet. A servant girl steps out of the tent behind her. The girl has a staff too, and she carries a pack with bread and dates and cheese. Both of the women have goat-skin water bags hanging from their shoulders. The two women follow Abraham down into the wadi, going slowly, staying out of sight.
 
*
 
I am Sarah. I followed my man Abraham from our old home in Haran, where he was beautiful in his youth and strength, and I was beautiful in my youth, and we were lovers such as have never been. I suppose all lovers think that but I know what I know.
 
Likewise I followed Abraham on his solitary journey from Abram whom he was, into the Abraham he became. I followed him when he led me on my own similar journey from Sarai, whom I was, and happy to be, into Sarah, who I am now. I understood I had to become Sarah, and I remain Sarah now, although at night I still dream of the beauty and simplicity of Sarai and her Abram.
 
I watched Abraham struggle with that voice of his, as he changed from the strong and gentle man I first knew, into the somber visionary I knew at the last. I followed him even on our crazed journey down into Mitzrayim — Egypt — of which I will not speak now.
 
Perhaps I did not trust that voice of Abraham’s, even though he told me the voice was the voice of God. I can understand that a man, or a woman, may hear voices in the wind, see strange stories in flames, and be instructed by them. But I did not understand Abraham when he said that the voice he spoke with invalidated all other voices or visions, and that he was obligated to do the bidding in every detail of the voice. No, I did not entirely trust that voice.
 
It has been many years now since I laid my weary eyes upon the husband of my youth. I grow old and tired and I know my end is near. I know that Isaac, when he journeys alone, sometimes goes to visit his father. He does not tell me of these visits, and I do not want to know about them, but I do know.
 
Isaac was the treasure of my old age, and is still my son, my only son, my gift from God.
 
I remember that there was that certain day, and how Abraham suddenly came to me on that day to tell me he must take Isaac away with him, away to sacrifice on some strange mountain his voice would show him.
 
I thought Abraham has sacrificed many times on many hilltops without Isaac. And I thought, Why does he suddenly need Isaac? And why in some place we do not know? That I do not know.  
 
Abraham packed with care for the journey, taking food and wine and water and wood and firestones and his precious iron knife. But he took no animal for the sacrifice, no goat or lamb or bird. I thought, What does the voice mean for him to do?
 
I had a dream, and in the dream a name. Moriah. I awoke wondering Where, what, is Moriah?
 
I had to know these things. And so it was that I disobeyed Abraham for the first time in my life.
 
*
 
On the third day of traveling, in the late afternoon of that day, Abraham looks up from the hard stony ground on which they trudge. He sees a sere horizon, and above that a rising scarp of plateau, and above that a patina of dust, and above that a hammered metal sky and a smudge of hot sun. Through the dust, a shadow. It is the shadow of a tall hill. He knows now where he is. He is in the valley called Hinnom. As he looks at the hill rising in the east he feels a crawling of his skin, a scintillation of his vision. This is the place. He knows this. A name comes to him. Moriah. He smiles, a grim thing.
 
Abraham, and the servant boys, and the donkey with Isaac aboard, come to a pool of water at the foot of a smaller valley branching from the valley called Hinnom. This small valley runs up toward the hill which is the hill of Abraham’s vision. Abraham calls a halt. They set up camp, a little travel tent, a stone fire ring. The three boys gather dry brush and sticks for a cooking fire. Abraham will not let them use the cut wood he has brought.
 
In the silent afternoon, Abraham cooks a gruel with millet from the bag of supplies. The three boys play stones, tossing at a target drawn in the sand, to see who can come closest without touching. When the millet is cooked they eat, and wash it down with swigs of sour wine from a goatskin.
 
Down-valley from where Abraham camps, Sarah and her girl sit on the ground behind a scattered fall of huge rocks, leaning back against a sun-warmed boulder. They eat dry bread, scraps of cheese, and hard dry dates. They drink warm water tasting of goatskin.        
 
Then it is night.
 
Down-valley, Sarah and her girl wrap themselves in shawls, huddle together, and press against the rock which still holds heat from the day.
 
Up-valley, Isaac sleeps in the tent. The two boys are wrapped in blankets by the dying fire. Abraham stands alone among rocks. Above him stars are scattered like burning pebbles, endlessly, wildly. Is there something there he can learn? Abraham does not think of this learning as reading, because he does not read, for there is nothing written in his world.
 
Still, he stares at the stars, and stares, until tears fill his eyes. He struggles to understand the patterns flung above him. He grinds his teeth and stares and stares.
 
“Here I am,” he says, but no one has called him. There is no answering voice. “How dare you,” he says. “Even you.” He stops. He will not reveal any more.
 
Finally, in the east, the sky begins to lighten. In the valleys it is still night, and stars still wheel madly overhead. The silhouette of Moriah looms against the stars. Abraham jiggles the flap of Isaac’s tent.
 
“Come,” he says.
 
“It’s still dark,” says Isaac, his voice mussed with sleep.
 
“Almost dawn,” answers Abraham. “We will watch the sun rise from the top of the hill.”
 
In a moment Isaac emerges from the tent, rubbing his eyes. Abraham hands him a sling of coarse cloth in which is held some of the split wood. Abraham shoulders another sling with more wood.
 
“You two will wait here,” Abraham tells the two boys, and they huddle around the dark fire ring. Abraham turns and walks slowly up the narrow valley toward Moriah. His bag of firestones and his knife hang from his belt, swaying as he walks.
 
Isaac shrugs, makes a face, follows Abraham into the shadows.
 
Down-valley, Sarah sits up, hearing footsteps shuffling against stone. Abraham is on the move. She shakes the girl, puts a finger to her lips for silence. “You wait here for me,” she whispers to the girl. Sarah rises and tiptoes away into the darkness.
 
*
 
My name is Abdel. I was once servant to my master, whose name was Abraham, although he is long dead and I am a free man. My younger brother Boulus and I were taken as children by the tribe of Abraham in payment for some dispute over the use of a well. We do not remember the place we lived before coming to Abraham’s camp. Our master Abraham was not a cruel master. He was often moody, but he never struck us. And often enough he smiled or laughed. At least he did when we were young, and he was not quite so old.
 
When I was perhaps twelve, and Boulus eleven, there was an occasion when our master took us to accompany him as he went with his son Isaac to sacrifice on a particular hill. This was strange, because usually he did such things alone. The hill was three days march from our camp by the terebinth oasis of Beersheba.
 
But our master was plagued in those days by falling fits. In these fits he heard voices. Perhaps that was the source of this strangeness of which I speak.
 
When we arrived at the place, which our master called Moriah, after three days of walking, we were left to wait while our master and his son Isaac went alone up the hill. We were frightened to be alone in the wilderness, but we packed up the tent and other things and sat among the rocks. In the late afternoon our master came back alone. He did not tell us where Isaac was, or speak at all, and we did not dare to speak to him. We feared for Isaac, though we later learned that he still lived.
 
I will say, and my brother will agree, that our master was never the same after he came down from Moriah. He seemed like a man broken by something. When we returned to Beersheba our master’s wife Sarah was gone and we never saw her again alive. We saw only her empty shell, when our master laid her to rest in a cave he bought. We sorrowed to see her gone. She always treated us kindly.
 
Our master married again, and had children by Keturah, his new wife, but we never saw him smile ever again, even when his son Isaac married, and we were with him until he died.
 
*
 
Abraham measures his steps up the slopes of Moriah, counting each step, feeling the weight of the wood he carries, feeling the heft of the firestone bag as it swings from his waist, back and forth. Feeling the pull of his iron knife where it hangs against his belt. His face is like a granite mountain, more forbidding than Moriah, than any mountain, wreathed in storm clouds. He feels as though he walks against a strong wind.
 
The sky brightens in the east.
 
Isaac toils along behind Abraham, struggling with the sling of split wood. He has seen his father in dark moods, but not as dark as this. He feels that he must talk, somehow fill the smoldering quiet with something. “Father,” he calls, trying to catch up.
 
“Yes, my son,” replies Abraham, his voice surprisingly gentle.
 
“We’ve got the wood,” says Isaac, “and you’ve got the stones and the knife, but where is the animal to sacrifice?”
 
“God,” says Abraham, glaring upwards, “he will see to the sacrifice.” And Isaac has the strange sensation that Abraham is not speaking to him.
 
They climb on in silence.
 
At the top of Moriah they are surrounded by great smooth rocks the color of dried blood. Dry hills march away from them in all directions. The endless desert simmers far to the south, still in shadow. Abraham piles his wood in a flat place, and Isaac piles his on top. While Isaac rests against a boulder, Abraham gathers stones and builds an altar, like the score of altars he has built on other empty hills. He works methodically, his mind blank as he lifts the ponderous stones he favors.
 
Isaac dozes. The golden sun leaps out of the eastern hills. Light and heat pour across the land.
 
Suddenly Isaac is seized by the shoulders and raised up. He opens his eyes in alarm. Abraham’s eyes bore into Isaac’s. Isaac feels the world, the sky, the sun, the hill, all spinning, spinning. Abraham’s eyes are like moons, flicker like summer lightning. Isaac faints, slides into a trance, not sleep, not wakefulness. He sags, limp, in Abraham’s grip. Puzzling jagged dreams fill his vision behind his closed eyes. He wanders in a peculiar landscape peopled with unknown beings.
 
Abraham lays Isaac on the altar he has just built, gently, incredibly gently. He binds Isaac’s wrists and ankles with soft thin woolen cords. Isaac does not struggle, or move, is limp, lost in trance. Abraham arranges the dry split wood carefully around the young man. When he has placed the wood perfectly, he pulls his knife from his belt and raises it high.
 
As he raises his knife, Abraham raises his eyes also, glares at the sky, at the brightening day, his brow creased, pauses, waits. Waits.
 
Time passes, slowly, quickly.
 
The towering sun of noon sends shadows hiding under the rocks which lie scattered across the summit of Moriah. A rough altar of piled stones rises from the rocky ground of the summit, stabbing into the brass-colored air. On this altar a bright hot fire of oak burns, the flames odd in the heavy sunlight. In this fire burns a butchered ram, a wild ibex of the mountains. Greasy smoke climbs crookedly into the sky. The great curved horns of the ram are placed like a frame on the east side of the altar.
 
Abraham lies on his stomach before the altar, his face in the dirt. He holds a bloody iron knife in one hand.
 
Abraham is wracked by immense deep silent sobs as he lies there. He is oblivious to everything, to the high sun, to the heat of noon, to the smoking fire and the burning meat, to the metallic air and the endless desert around his hill. And he is oblivious to the young man, Isaac, who sits huddled against a tall rock nearby.
 
Isaac sits with his feet drawn up under his robe, his arms wrapped around himself. His face is pale, deathly pale. His eyes are wide and unblinking and dry, and he does not see the world about him. His fingers pick at the fringe of his robe.
 
Sarah steps out from behind the boulders which ring the summit of Moriah. She is also pale, but her eyes are angry, dark and shining. She walks carefully and quietly around Abraham as he lies sobbing in the dirt. She walks carefully and quietly to Isaac, reaches down and raises Isaac by the arm. He stands submissively, without awakening. She leads him shuffling away from the summit of Moriah, away from the altar on which the dead ram burns, away from Abraham. They start down the path leading to the valley below.
 
Suddenly Isaac shudders, turns, looks blindly at Sarah, then blinks his staring eyes and looks again. He finally sees her, sees who she is. He throws his arms around her, buries his face on her shoulder, in the wool of her shawl, and he cries, silently, deep silent sobs, like Abraham’s. Tears make muddy tracks down his pale, dusty face.
 
After a time they continue down the steep path, away from the altar on which the dead ram burns. Sarah leans heavily on her staff and Isaac leans heavily on her. They walk silently and carefully down the path to where Sarah’s girl waits, holding each other, not speaking.
 
*
 
My name is Samirah. I am a woman grown, with children, and a husband, and my own tent. I am an adept of the Goddess, and I serve no one but She Who Is Not Named. But once I was a young girl, and I was servant for my mistress, whose name was Sarah. My mother came as a young maiden with Sarah, whose name was then Sarai, and her husband Abram, who later became Abraham, from the land of Haran. My mother met my father, a herder, in the camp of Abraham, and I was born there.
 
My mother was in the camp of Abraham when Sarai became Sarah. This, even though Sarai herself had been ordained in the Mysteries of the Goddess, even as I am now. And my mother was there when Abram became Abraham, in token of the powerful and divine visions he experienced. Likewise, she was with Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, but I will not speak of that. My mother it was who told me these things, and with that and what I know myself, I can say I knew Sarah and Abraham as well as anyone.
 
And I will say that Abraham was not a cruel man. He did not beat his wife nor his servants. But he was distant and preoccupied with his visions, and he was grim, and haunted. I know that Sarah mourned deeply for the days when they had been close, her and her husband.
 
I will also speak of that day on the mountain of Moriah, when Abraham took Isaac there, and of my mistress afterward.
 
Abraham and Isaac journeyed three days from Beersheba, and we — Sarah and I — followed secretly. They then climbed the mountain before dawn, and my mistress Sarah followed shortly after, by a different path. I waited below in a wadi off the valley called Hinnom. When the sun was past noon, Sarah came down the path leading Isaac. The boy was in a strange, trance-like state, which I now know was the remnant of a visionary dream.
 
Sarah and I revived the boy, with water, and with rubbing his hands. After that he walked and he talked, seemingly himself again. But a spark had gone out of him, and he was never the sweet, cheerful person he had been before.
 
As for Sarah, she never again spoke of Abraham, except that first afternoon, when we led Isaac back toward Beersheba. As we walked, she told me that Abraham had sought to sacrifice — to kill — Isaac and she would live with him no more. How it came about that Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac I never knew. But Sarah was true to her word. She did not enter camp, but gave me her ring and sent me to bring her tent and her belongings and Isaac’s belongings and the camels which were hers. This I did, with the help of slaves who were likewise hers. We all came away and none questioned me, for I had my mistress’s ring.
 
We sought out a family Sarah knew among the Hittite people of Hebron and stayed with them, until Sarah died. When she died we sent a message to Abraham, and he came and took her body and buried it in a cave in Machpelah, and he now lies there as well. I do not know if Sarah would have wanted that, but what is done is done. I myself now live near the sea people of Sidon, where I accomplish the rites for the Goddess.
 
*
 
On the summit of Moriah, Abraham moves and rises, dusts off his robe. He wipes the muddy tears from his eyes and wipes the dry blood from the iron knife against a stone, and puts the knife into his belt. He picks up the bag of firestones and ties it around his waist.
 
The sun is sinking toward the west.
 
Abraham looks around, there on the empty summit of Moriah. He sees the broken wool cords with which he bound Isaac, broken by Isaac, as Abraham intended they could be.
 
He trudges away from the altar with its dying fire, shuffles down a path toward the valley where his boys wait, not the same path which was taken by Sarah and Isaac, or by himself and Isaac earlier, or by anyone.
 
*
 
I am Abraham, he who was Abram in his youth.
 
I lie now in my tent, close to death. Sparks of sunlight shine where the tent door is crooked. Outside I hear the wailing of my wife Keturah, and the others, and my sons and my daughters. I do not know whether Isaac is among them, my beloved only son of my beloved Sarah, she who was Sarai in her youth.
 
I remember Sarai, perhaps better than I remember Sarah, her beauty, her soft voice, her soft touch, her sweet hair.
 
My mind is like a sparrow in a bush, here, there, seen, not seen.
 
Isaac does not stay with me often, does not make his camp here where he belongs, not since that day on Moriah. For a long time he camped with his mother Sarah, when she sojourned among the Hittites of Hebron. Until she died, and I took her and buried her in the cave I bought at Machpelah. I will lie in that cave also, soon enough.
 
After Sarah died, Isaac rarely set his tent beside mine. Even when I found him Rivkah to marry from among my people of Haran he remained stubborn and stiff-necked.
 
After that day on Moriah I never saw Sarah alive again. So I could not speak to her of that day, could not speak of what had been in my mind.
 
Now I cannot speak at all. Every breath is a labor. I am helpless. I do not eat or drink or pass waste. I wait to die.
 
I have led a life rich in the things of life. I owe this to God. I have been scrupulous in all my dealings with men, and with my God. I have treated my women and my children and my servants and slaves well. I die satisfied and without regret.
 
But always the voice of God. Commanding me. I believed it, the voice. I obeyed. I know it was the true voice of God.
 
Go to Moriah and sacrifice Isaac there, that is what the voice told me. How could I tell Sarah that? How could I tell the boy himself? How could I myself believe it? I had thought that we, that God and I, were forging something new. A new understanding between God and men. I was to be the first who would hear and understand and obey. Others would follow, a dynasty of prophets who would make clear the intentions of God.
 
There were still those who sacrificed with human blood, out of their ignorance — sacrificed virgin girls or slaves or even their sons. Was this what we were to return to?
 
I have heard the whispering, among the herdsmen, in the women’s tents. That God had tested the obedience of Abraham, and Abraham was so obedient he would not withhold from God his own son, Isaac. That Abraham was so compliant he would accept a God who craved the smell of human blood.
 
They had it wrong, all of them.
 
I was testing God.
 
Was I not Abraham, who contended with God before Sodom? I lost that dispute, but I did not fear to begin it.
 
I would never, never, have harmed Isaac. If God’s angel had not stayed my hand, if I had not been struck down again by vision, if Isaac had not broken those weak cords which bound him on that cursed altar, if I had not awakened to see the ram caught in the brush — if these things had not happened, then I would have plunged the knife into my own heart.
 
I would take that day back if I could.
 
I would never have harmed Isaac. No matter what God commanded.
 
I am dying. I lie here helpless and wait to join my beloved Sarah in her dark cave.
 
My mind is a sparrow, flying into bright light.
 
I was wrong, just now. I have one regret. That I did not tell Sarah I would never have harmed Isaac. That she died not knowing this.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Copyright © Richard Jay Goldstein 2012
 
 
Richard Jay Goldstein has been writing fiction and non-fiction for about twenty-five years. He lives with his wife and kids and grandkids in the mountains east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it’s still pretty quiet, thanks. He’s a lapsed ER doc, and has published fifty-something stories and essays in the literary, Jewish, and sci-fi/fantasy/horror presses, including a number of anthologies. He has also had two Pushcart nominations. 


 

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