I know that it’s a little peculiar to insist on linking the Akedah, the “binding of Isaac,” with “Emissary,” the pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I feel I should begin these remarks by saying that. In addition, I am fully aware that the wormhole entities, AKA “the Prophets of Bajor,” to whom we are introduced in this television series are not meant to reflect the God of Genesis. Nonetheless, I am absolutely convinced that Deep Space Nine‘s “Emissary” episode has more to teach about the Akedah, about God-human communication and about teshuvah [“repentance” or “return”].
When I first spent a lot of time with the Akedah — preparing for a dvar Torah on the portion for Fabrangen’s 1998 high holiday services (5769) — I kept hearing a single line from the pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “You exist here. Why do you exist here?” This oft-repeated demand — which I remembered from the 1993 television show — struck me as pertinent to the Akedah: We exist here. Why do we exist here?
My response then focused on how our everyday experience of life’s contradictions reflects the experience of each main character in the Akedah: Abraham, Isaac and Sarah. In addition to Deep Space Nine, my sources that year were Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s essay, “Cries and Whispers: the Death of Sarah,” and Aryeh Kaplan‘s book on the meaning of mikvah, Waters of Eden.
When I agreed to address the Akedah again this year, I assumed I would take a different approach. And I sincerely tried. But it seems that the stacks of Torah commentary I’ve read in the past decade are no match for the number of times I’ve watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on DVD. Moreover my previous studies, it seems, permanently warped my reading of the text, not unlike the generations who have read the Torah so that it agrees with Rashi’s interpretation. I see 24th Century Starfleet officer Benjamin Sisko as part of the Akedah story, as clearly as I see Sarah — who lives there only within the white space of the Torah text.
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