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Yitshak and God’s Separation Anxiety

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image of The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

AbstractThe biblical Yitshak is a rather pale character. What colors his personality is his name and the story of his birth, which are inseparably intertwined with one another. My focus in this essay shall be upon the meaning of the name Yitshak and the circumstances under which it was given. I shall make two central claims. First, that the name Yitshak bears a negative connotation. This is indicated both by the meaning of the name in the biblical lexicon, and by the three contexts in Genesis in which the name is explained. Why should the son for whom the chosen father yearned, and through whom God’s promise and plans were to be realized, be given an insulting name? The answer to this question—which is my second claim—is rooted in the unique interpersonal relationship between God and Abraham. This answer is a key for understanding the saga of Abraham as whole, including the story of the Akedah.

Affiliations: 1: Bar-Ilan


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