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The Binding of Isaac – Roundtable

The Binding of Isaac, Akedat Yitzhak, continues to serve as a background for discussions of religion, politics, art and philosophy. This concise Biblical narrative, only 19 verses in length, has managed to set a model for thinking about obedience and sacrifice, secularism and politics, art and philosophy—and more.

In this recording, Yael Feldman (Literary Criticism/Hebrew Studies, NYU), James Goodman (History/Writing, Rutgers), Jay Bernstein (Philosophy, NSSR) and Omri Boehm (Philosophy, NSSR) meet to discuss their different perspectives on the story.

Feldman begins by offering an Israeli-Jewish perspective on the Akedah in literature, focusing on the theme of siblings (Isaac/Ishmael). Bernstein continues, interpreting Caravaggio’s 1603 painting of the story as the very beginning of modern secular consciousness: it reminds us, for the first time, of the standpoint of Isaac. I follow up, suggesting that the story itself in fact presents a model of rebellion. Disobedience rather than obedience constitutes, I argue, the Abrahamic model of faith. Goodman then opens the discussion by posing questions to each, and offering his own literary perspective. At times, he allows himself to comment on the views suggested by invading the standpoint of the story’s author.

The event took place on October 15th, 2013, at the New School For Social Research. The occasion was James Goodman’s newly published book on the story, “But Where Is the Lamb?” (Schocken, 2013). This was also the second and last evening of Eid el-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, in which Abraham’s faith is celebrated. -Omri Boehm

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Omri Boehm

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