If you’re not a fan of or familiar with the animated comedy series “Family Guy” by Seth McFarlane (who also produced the recent remake of Cosmos) you might not fully appreciate this recycled musing from 6 years ago. The show is not to everyone’s taste. It is sophomoric, has lots of crude humor, and is generally offensive (it is an equal opportunity offender!) Yet, like other challenging series like South Park, The Simpsons, and others, it also offers insightful commentaries on our society, our values, our politics, our beliefs, our culture and more. I’m not ashamed to admit that I find it entertaining and thought-provoking at times. Sometimes I find myself on the floor laughing. At other times I find myself wincing. As uncomfortable as it makes me to say this, I think that suggests the show succeeds in its intent. So, with this introduction, I offer you this “Family Guy” based retelling of the akedah, slightly edited and adapted from the original version from 6 years ago.
He’s a Family Guy?
There’s a short scene from the TV cartoon comedy “Family Guy” in which Peter Griffin says to his daughter Meg that he was going to stop treating her badly “cause I’m a worse father than Abraham.” Then there’s a cutaway to a scene of Abraham and Isaac walking down a mountain, Abraham with a knife in his hand, and Isaac says: “You wanna tell me what the f**k THAT was!? (Season 6: Episode: Peter’s Daughter) You can watch it here: http://youtu.be/NKurInYnovU
As irreverent as that is, in a way, it almost sums up my current take on the akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac, which we read near the end of this week’s parasha, Vayeira. And it is not only Isaac who asks this question. It is all of us, when we encounter this troubling text. We rationalize it in all sorts of ways. “It was a test, just as the Torah says.” If G”d was indeed testing Avraham, did Avraham pass or fail? There’s no unanimity on that answer.
G”d rewards Avraham for his faithfulness. “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, Your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore.” This would seem to indicate that Avraham passed the test, but can we be sure?
Why was Avraham rewarded? Was it for blindly obeying G”ds request? Was it for ignoring his own inner conscience? Was Avraham troubled by what G”d was asking of him? There’s no such indication in the text. Was Avraham so sure in his heart and mind that G”d would not require him to go through with this act?
Perhaps G”d’s purpose in this test was to see if Avraham would develop a crisis of conscience. Perhaps G”d was seeing if Avraham could put aside selfish and personal feelings.
Perhaps G”d was just being mean, toying with Avraham.
Perhaps G”d was naive.
So imagine another cutaway scene from Family Guy (or the Simpsons, or whatever your favorite irreverent social commentary cartoon is.) (If you’re not familiar with the show, you might miss the inside jokes, but what the hey.)
Prologue – Up In Heaven
G”d, talking to self: OK. OK. Let’s see. I need to test this Avraham to see if he is the right one of My creations to bring knowledge of Me to the world. He’s already baffled me. When I asked him to just pick up and move, he went. when I revealed my plans to destroy S’dom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, he argued. Which is the real Avraham? The blind obedient one, or the one who cares so much for his fellow human beings that he would argue with Me? I need to find out. What could I ask him to do? Kill his wife? After all, she did scoff at my power to make Avraham’s seed potent enough to get her pregnant. Wait-that’s it! His seed. I’ll ask him to kill his son Isaac for me. Will he do it? Will he argue with me, beg, plead? This could be interesting.
[Scene – Somewhere near the terebinths at Mamre]
G”d: Hey, Abie baby.
Avraham (aka Peter Griffin): Yo, present.
G”d: Take your son…
Avraham: I got two. Which one You mean? Pick one.
G”d: Your favorite son
Avraham: Hey, I love both my sons
G”d, [to self:] Jesus H. Christ! Hey, there’s an idea….oh wait, where was I. Oh yes. Explaining the obvious.
G”d [to Avraham:] Yitzchak (under G”ds breath: “you twit!”)
Avraham: Yeah. OK. Gotcha. Now what?
G”d: Go to the land of Moriah…
Avraham: Y’know, I heard they call the wind Moria…
[G”d paces, throws arms up in the fair, pounds self on head.]
G”d: I’ll do the punning around here, buddy. Now, as I said. Go to the land of Moria (pause, waiting to see if Avraham will interrupt again)…and offer Yitzchak as a burnt offering on a high place I’ll show you.
Avraham: Oh, are we back to that “I’ll tell you when you get there” sh*t again?
[G”d stomps off, frustrated.]
[Cut to new scene near Abraham’s encampment]
[Avraham is shown saddling his ass.]
Voiceover-Peter Griffin: (laughing.) His ass!
Avraham (to Yitzchak): OK, we’re going on a little trip
Yitzchak (aka Chrfis Griffin): Where?
Avraham: Don’t you give me that smart-mouth “where?” crap again. Just grab yer stuff and let’s head out…..for some fishin’. OK? There, I said it. We’re going fishing.
Yitzchak: Sounds fishy to me.
Avraham: Look, just bring me an axe, will you?
[Yitzchak looks puzzled, but goes off and returns with an ax which he gives to Avraham. Avraham splits some wood, and gathers it up into a bundle.]
Avraham (to servant:) You! Boy! You’re coming with us.
Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy: And bring your handsome young friend over there, too
Avraham: What? (shrugs) Whatever. You both come.
Avraham [makes several attempts to get on his ass. Finally, atop his beast, he says:] Asses ho!
[Avraham, Yitzchak and two young male servants head off.]
[Cutaway to scene of Herbert following along behind sneakily.]
[Cutaway to scene of Mort standing in front of a synagogue.] Mort: As a representative of the Jewish people, I want to say this cartoon in no way portrays the ancient legends of my faith in an accurate manner. That is all. Thank You. (calling offstage) Coming, Muriel.
[Fade to another scene of Avraham, Yitzchak and the two servants traveling, followed by Herbert.]
Narrator (voice of Adam West): On the third day, Avraham looked up and saw the place from afar.
[Scene shows a distant mountain with a huge, flashing finger-pointing sign in the heavens pointing down at it reading “This Is It”]
Voice of Stewie Griffin: Wait a minute. How did Abraham know this was the place?
Voice of Brian Griffin: Well, obviously G”d must have told him.
Voice of Stewie Griffin: But the Bible doesn’t say that.
Voice of Brian Griffin: What do I look like, a rabbi? Just shuddup and watch.
[Avraham dismounts from his ass.]
Avraham (to the two servants): You stay here and watch my ass!
Avraham: I’m just gonna go up there with my son and we’re gonna….uh……worship, yeah, that’s it worship. (spoken quickly) And then we’ll be back.
Avraham (to Yitzchak:) Yo, Yitz, follow me.
[Yitzchak dismounts, Avraham walks over to him with the wood and straps it on to Yitzchak’s back.]
Yitzchak: Hey! I thought we were going fishing!
Avraham (dissembling): Well, first we ought to say “Thank You” to the Big Kahuna, and pray for a good catch, right?
Yitzchak (hesitantly:) Uh, I dunno Dad.
Avraham: Be a man, my son!
[Avraham tries to give Yitzchak a big swat on the back, but his hand hits the wood, hurting him. Overly prolonged scene of Avraham writhing in pain.]
[Then, just as suddenly, Avraham stops, stands up and says to Yitzchak]: OK, let’s go.
[Avraham and Yitzchak head out up the mountain. Cut to Herbert the Pervert viewing from a distance. He moves a little towards the servants, slightly hiding himself behind a tree.]
Herbert: Oh boys! Come here. I’ve got an ass that needs saddling too!
[The two servants exchange glances, shrug, and run towards Herbert.]
[Cut to scene of Avraham and Yitzchak walking up the mountain.]
Yitzchak: Yo, Dad! I got the wood, and you got the knife and the firestone, but where’s the sheep for the offering?
[Quick cutaway to scene of sheep that were grazing suddenly looking up, then back to Avraham and Yitzchak scene.]
Avraham: Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. (clearly thinking fast) Uh…(then an idea strikes him, and he slyly says): G”d will provide for the sheep my son.
[Cut to scene back at Avraham’s home. Sarah (played by Lois) walks in to an empty room.]
Sarah: Abie? Yitz? Now where have those two gone off to now? Oh, well. While the hubby’s away, the wifey will play.
[Cutaway to a scene of Sarah playing the Egyptian game Senet with some of the female servants.]
[Cut to scene on top of mountain. Yitzchak is already there. We hear panting in the distance. Slowly, Avraham comes into view, slowly dragging himself up the mountain.]
Yitzchak: C’mon Dad. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can
Avraham (under his breath); Oh, you just wait until I get up there….
[Yitzchak continues to goad and Tease Avraham. Finally, Avraham arrives and collapses. Fade to black.]
[Scene from Abraham’s perspective lying on the ground – his eyes flicker open to see Yitzchak standing over him with a knife, as if he is about to strike.]
[Scene shifts to normal perspective. Yitzchak helps Avraham up and says]: Here Dad, you’re gonna need this more than I.
Avraham (under his breath:) Shows what little you know.
[Avraham and Yitzchak gather stones and build a little altar. They put the wood upon it, and lay the firestone and knife nearby.]
Yitzchak: Nu? where’s the sheep Dad.
[Avraham turns and grins broadly at Yitzchak.]
Yitzchak: Dad? (getting nervous) Dad? Dad!
[Avraham tackles Yitzchak, gags him, and with (overly-prolonged and) great effort, lifts him onto the altar. He stops, breathes deeply. Lost in thought for a moment, he asks himself] “I wonder what Sarah’s up to at this moment?”
[Cutaway to scene showing Sarah running around an ancient biblical supermarket, buying all sorts of treif products, while Quagmire stalks her. Sound: Benny Hill theme song.]
[Back to Avraham and Yitzchak scene.]
Avraham: I can’t believe I have to do this frickin’ thing. Somebody, give me a sign.
[Cutaway to Evil Monkey from Family Guy pointing at knife, then back to Avraham.]
Avraham: (with nervous giggle, as he picks up the knife) Uh, are there any other signs out there?
[Cutaway to scene of sheep again-they were all looking up, and now quickly start grazing again, heads down. Then back to Avraham.]
Avraham: Oh crap! Guess I gotta do this thing.
[Avraham raises the knife and prepares to strike Yitzchak. Just then, a
voice (Seth McFarlane) cries (in a stage whisper)]: Avraham. (pause, then repeated a little louder) Avraham. (pause, then screaming) Avraham!
Avraham (drops the knife:) Oh crap! Yeah, I’m here. Who’s that?
Voice: Do not raise a hand against the boy…
Avraham: Can I start the fire now?
Voice (screaming:) Don’t do anything to him, you idiot! (regaining his composure) For now I know that your fear the Lord, since you have not withheld your son, your favorite son, from Me.
[Angel, played by Bruce, steps into scene.]
Avraham: Hey, didn’t I see you back at Lot’s place?
Angel (sheepishly): You got me. That was me! (Angel walks over and puts his arm around Avraham.)
Avraham (to Angel): So lemme ask you something? Are an angel, or are you G”d? I’m a little confused about that.
Angel: To tell the truth, I’m as confused as you, brother. But never you mind that. Look up.
[Avraham looks up, see nothing unusual.]
Angel: See that?
Avraham: See what?
Angel [turns to look at where sheep should be caught in thicket and says]: Oh crap. Excuse me a minute.
[The two old-timey Gay-90’s guys in their barbershop quartet outfits and their piano pass through the scene playing that silly little melody to stall for time.]
The non piano-playing Old Timey Guy says: Just killin’ time folks, just killin’ time.
[Cutaway to scene showing Angel dragging a very reluctant sheep into the thicket.]
[Cut back to repeat of the old-timey guys.]
[Cut back to Angel and Avraham]
Angel: OK. Now look up.
[Avraham looks up, and applauds and makes silly childish noises.]
Angel: Well? (pause )
Angel: Well? (pause)
Avraham: Where? I could sure use a drink.
G”d’s voice: I said I’ll do the punning
Avraham (nervous chuckle): Sorry.
Angel: (clears throat) (pause) (clears throat louder) (finally, in exasperation) Go get the sheep, stupid!
Avraham: Oh. Oh. Yeah. Right.
[Avraham goes to get the sheep. In the background, the Angel unbinds Yitzchak, who runs off. Avraham puts the sheep upon the altar.]
[Cutaway to scene of other sheep putting the hooves over their hearts in salute, then back to Avraham scene.]
[Avraham, while the sheep burns, starts to look around.]
Avraham: (does a Julie Andrews sweep from the start of sound of Music] Wow. I never realized what a nice view it is from up here. Sheesh! Look at that. Just beautiful. Y’know, I think I’ll call this place Adonai-yireh, which, as you know, means “scenic view.”
Angel: (off camera) By Myself I swear, the…
Avraham: Whaa? who said that?
Angel’s voice: It’s me, Abie baby.
Avraham: Ah, I knew it. You are G”d.
Angel’s voice: I is what I is, baby.
Angel, now in G”d’s voice: Because you have done this, and not withheld your son (pause) your favorite son (pause) (releases a breath) I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore.”
Avraham: Cool! (starts walking off)
Angel: And your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All……(notices Avraham is heading away) Hey, wait a minute, there’s more.
Avraham: Gotta go.
Angel/G”d: (very fast, in one breath) All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.”
(Underneath G”d’s dialogue, Avraham is saying “Yeah, that’s nice. Gotta run., Very nice. Thank You. See ya. etc.)
Narrator: And so Avraham returned to his servants
Voice of Stewie Griffin: But where’s Yitzchak? Didn’t he go back with Avraham?
Voice of Brian Griffin: It doesn’t say in the bible. Nobody’s really sure.
Voice of Stewie Griffin: Hmm. I wonder what happened to him
[Cut to a scene in a cave. Yitzchak and Ishmael (played by Cleveland) are sitting around smoking hookahs. They ‘re obviously high. Very Cheech & Chong-ish in style.]
Yitzchak: And then, and then, (laugh) get this, get this…daddy tries to kill me?
Ishmael: Get outta here! No way man!
Yitzchak: Way, man. Way!
Just then, Hagar (played by Meg) walks in.
Hagar: Boys, I gotta surprise for you! Oh, just look at the two of you. Smoking those hookahs again. Fat chance either of you two fathering a great nation!
Ishmael: Funny, ma! So what’s the surprise?
Hagar: Well, you know how Daddy…er, Avraham (under her breath) May he die the death of a thousands plagues…(resuming) he always talked about welcoming the strangers and travelers? Well there’s a stranger outside..
Herbert the Pervert (peeking through curtain at entrance to cave:) Hello, boys….
[Cut to just outside Sarah’s tent. There is light inside, and Sarah’s shadow can be seen as she undresses for the night.]
[Blackout. Roll credits and theme music.]
(With apologies to Seth McFarlane.)
Silly? Yes! Irreverent? Yes! Thought-provoking? You be the judge.
©2014 (portions ©2008) by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings on this Parasha:
Vayeira 5774–Plainly Spoken (Redux & Revised from 5762)
Vayera 5773 – Do Your Own Unpacking
Vayera 5772 – Well?
Vayera 5771 – Density
Vayera 5770 – Not Even Ten?
Vayera 5767-Revised 5759-Whoops! (or Non-Linear Thinking)
Vayera 5766-The Price of Giving
Vayera 5765-From the Journal of Lot Pt. II
Vayera 5762-Plainly Spoken
Vayera 5760/5761-More From the “Journal of Lot”
Vayera 5759-Whoops! (or “Non-Linear Thinking?”)
Vayera 5757-Technical Difficulties