If you take an abstract painting and turn it 90 degrees, the picture can look completely different. Or, if you place a small frame over just a section of the canvas, you’ll have something else entirely. A piece you dislike could instantly turn into something you love. Perspective matters, and looking at art, a situation, a conflict, or even a person in a different way can really open our eyes.
Our Torah portion this week, Vayera, is most known for the story of the Akeda, the “binding of Isaac,” also described as the almost sacrifice of Isaac. We have many interpretations and commentaries on this passage, teaching us theological and practical lessons. Most focus on Abraham and God’s actions, some focus on Isaac, and a very few speak about the two “boys” who came along on the journey. But we have at least one more character: the ram. What about the ram? Here is a different perspective on the ram, which also teaches us important lessons.
“The Real Hero.”
from Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, trans. Chana Bloch & Stephen Mitchell
The real hero of the Isaac story was the ram,
who didn’t know about the conspiracy between the others.
As if he had volunteered to die instead of Isaac.
I want to sing a song in his memory—
about his curly wool and his human eyes,
about the horns that were silent on his living head,
and how they made those horns into shofars when he was slaughtered
to sound their battle cries
or to blare out their obscene joy.
I want to remember the last frame
like a photo in an elegant fashion magazine:
the young man tanned and manicured in his jazzy suit
and beside him the angel, dressed for a party
in a long silk gown,
both of them empty-eyed, looking
at two empty places,
and behind them, like a colored backdrop, the ram,
caught in the thicket before the slaughter.
The thicket was his last friend.
The angel went home.
Isaac went home.
Abraham and God had gone long before.
But the real hero of the Isaac story
was the ram.