I was blessed with a ticket to the most postponed trial I know of, Abraham’s attempted murder of his son in Genesis 22. The trial was hosted by a wonderful synagogue with the ability to make wrestling with scripture an entertaining 3 hour event. I didn’t know what to expect when a friend from my church invited me, but then again it isn’t everyday a patriarch of the faith gets on trail. Luckily I found something familiar, the judge. None other than the honorable Jospeh Wapner, that’s right the Judge Wapner of People’s Court fame, presided over the case. Jonathan Shaprio (Prof. at USC, legal TV writer for tv shows like The Practice) was the prosecuting attorney and Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean of the University of California Irvine Law School) served as the attorney for the absent defendant.
What made the format so interesting was the attention the actual text was given and the big questions that loomed through the court case and dialogue with three Rabbis afterwords. The text in Genesis is pretty chilling to read. If you read the text and assume its accuracy (without which there would be no evidence) how would vote? Is Abraham Guilty or Not Guilty of attempted murder? Surprisingly in a group of 640 jurors only 29 separated the two options and these were almost all family (it was a synagogue).
Regardless of the voting, I have to say that the experience was very moving. There was something extremely sacred about how the text was examined, pushed, pulled, loved, and hated. It became clear how spirit infused the mock trial was when one of the Rabbis said something like this, ‘The stories in scripture are holy because they have holes. They are like Swiss cheese and full of holes. Into these holes goes our tradition, the Rabbis of the past, other scriptures, our experiences, history as a people, and the condition of our life and world today. We bring all we have into those holes, because there it becomes holy… as we argue over sending our patriarch to jail none the less.‘
Last Sunday afternoon I experianced a community of people who were creative, criticial, audacious, and faithful with their sacred stories. I hope to have a Sunday morning like that in the near future.