Oct. 19, 2020

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman on The Akedah – “Abraham’s Gift of Hineni: The Moral Necessity of Being Present”

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, is Mark’s very special guest on the podcast today. In addition to leading one of the premier institutions in Jewish life, Rabbi Berman has served as the pulpit Rabbi at the Jewish Center in Manhattan, and is a scholar in his own right. He also lectures widely throughout the U.S. and Israel, and has written numerous articles on subjects including current trends in Jewish thought and the future of Orthodoxy. The passage he has chosen to discuss with Mark today is The Akedah (Genesis 22).

Rabbi Berman begins the conversation by sharing his summary of the passage, why it is important for him, and the significance of the use of the word ‘hineni’ in it. He and Mark then examine the resolution of the tension found in Abraham being heneni for God and Isaac, Isaac’s takeaway from this event, and the lesson that The Akedah offers, particularly during the current pandemic. They also discuss the two directions The Akedah gives, Mark’s notion of a hineni for our mission in life, and they conclude with the lessons Rabbi Berman has learned about mankind. As Rabbi Berman notes, we are 'seeking the wisdom of our 3000 year old tradition which is the greatest gift that God has given humanity…enabling a lot of people to find what they seek’.

Episode Highlights:

  • · Rabbi Berman’s summary of The Akedah and its importance for him
  • · The significance Abraham’s use of the word ‘heneni’ in the passage
  • · Resolving the tension of Abraham being heneni for God and for Isaac
  • · Isaac’s ‘takeaway’ from this event
  • · The lesson of The Akedah and why it is essential throughout time, particularly during the current pandemic
  • · The two directions The Akedah gives
  • · The third heneni: to our mission
  • · The lessons that Rabbi Berman has learned about mankind


“I am here for you.”

“The Torah doesn’t report small talk.”

“He actually can’t be heneni for both of them…but he says he is.”

“Abraham the servant and Abraham the father – they’re both precious to God. And you do not have to sacrifice one for the other – God does not want you to sacrifice.”

“The difference between Judaism and Christianity in this sense is that in our tradition, the son does not die. “

“Isaac was perpetuating the legacy of his father.”

“The Torah speaks so beautifully in its silences, too.”

“Every moment can be a ‘heneni moment’.”

“We go through life, often sleepwalking through life.”

“We must give ourselves with kindness and compassion, be present in their lives in all ways that we can. You know, in this world it could be by Zoom at times.”

“Everyone has a different purpose. Everyone has a different mission. Everyone has different skills and talents.”

“We’re at our best when we are seekers.”

“If you want to be a sage, you have to remain a talmid, you always have to remain a student.”

The Akedah - https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.22.1-19?lang=en&with=all&lang2=en


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