Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

What if Isaac didn't want to be saved?

Anybody on campus will tell you that I am one of the most unusual theology minors on campus. This is not for lack of interest in debating religion, but rather due to the fact that I do not fit a stereotype because I am Jewish.

The reason I added the theology minor is because I feel that these are some of the classes that have made me think the hardest. Being a Jew at Notre Dame is, admittedly, difficult, and yet I have found that people are willing to discuss what this journey means in my theology classes.

In the context of the exploration of what it means to be Jewish, in a Catholic setting and in general, I decided to write an article about what would have happened if Isaac said no, in the context of the journey of the life of Jewish people, and how this may have had ramifications concerning the three monotheistic religions of the world.

This column is fairly abstract, but I credit Notre Dame theology for shaping and formulating the way that I see the world.

I hate you.

Words are the tiny photograph scrawlings of whatever thought their author has at that moment; they hold their meaning because people read them, internalize them and give them power. So, I’m writing this because I know you will see it and I know that you will feel it.

I hate you with every fiber of my being, and I wish that your time-worn hands that trembled above me would have plunged the knife directly into me. I curse you for looking to your left and seeing the angel standing with the sacrifice at its side. I can still feel the raw force of the fire that night, the way it singed my face, and I can still see the sparks disappear into the sky like supernovas sighing at the end of their lives.

What if I don’t want to believe in the miracles that I see? I tell people that I see the smoke and mirrors, the creaking pulleys and the rotting wooden levers. The truth is that I know there are miracles more than anybody I know. The crystal pool of water sits unmoved below me, and the fruit tree would not sink into itself if I reached for it, even though these things are unattainable for Tantalus beside me. But I do not indulge myself. I could open Pandora’s box if I wanted to and describe the patterns of mahogany beneath its lid to you without the specters of a thousand ghosts and demons obscuring my vision, but I tossed the key into a bottomless lake that nobody can find.

I hate that I can feel the feathers of wings on my shoulders. I have scarred myself like Lady Macbeth in my rage to scratch them away. To this day I can feel them above and around me, so I tell myself that their airy weight on my back is that of a gargoyle placed there. 

I’m not complaining. It is just that I didn’t ask for any of these favors. When the Red Sea parted, I took a trireme and sailed around the chasm you ripped in the earth. When you knocked down the walls of Jericho and they fell around us, I took a catapult and flung rock at the rubble. I did not ask for the oil to last eight days on Hanukkah. I tried everything I could to douse the flames myself, but the fire did not flicker when I screamed at the space in front of our menorah. I did not ask for your right hand, or for your strength. I did not ask for you to look left.

You do not realize the butterfly effect that happened when you cut me loose on that day. You cannot hear the symphony that was created on that day, you cannot feel the weight on your chest when the symphony has been cut out so many times that I cannot remember the exact number. And yet, the heaviest burden is the knowledge that the symphony will be there when I open my eyes, fresh as the lamb you replaced me with when you looked left.

I hate you and I’ve spent my entire life dreaming of the ways I could cut myself and bleed out the things you told me. There are those who will tell you I’ve wasted away the best years of my life like Michelangelo did, condemned to craft your face in marble and smash it into dust every time I do. But now, my time-worn hands rest above your heart, and they do not tremble. 

Like a whisper, I feel a cool wind upon my neck. I hear the cry of a lamb that I made sure was not here a second ago, and I cannot bear myself to look. For the first time in a long time, tears cloud my vision. I could call lightning down right now if I wanted to like Elijah did and destroy the prophets of Baal. I could erase you at this very moment, erase everything that we have become, what we could have been. My hands tremble and I stop them right before my knife pierces your flesh. 

I hate you. I hate you because you released the beauty and the madness inside. The grains of sand remain unchanged, and although the sky has changed because that is the story of time, there have been no new stars created because of us. I look into your eyes, completely peaceful because you and I know that this has never been the complete truth of the promise uttered to you all those millennia ago. The temple was carried away to Babylon, but maybe it never left us.

And I do what I promised myself I would never do. There are no smoke and mirrors, no pulleys and no levers. There is a static dryness hovering around me, the kind that pervades the air in the seconds before lightning strikes the earth. I take a deep breath.

I look left.

Gabriel Niforatos is a junior majoring in political science with minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and Theology. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at or @g_niforatos on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.