"And They Both Walked Together"
Cheshvan 11, 5771/October 19, 2010
These past weeks we have been learning about Avraham Avinu - Abraham our father. Avraham was an outgoing man, a man of action, a man of tremendous passion. We learn this from the written word of Torah and we learn it from our Midrashic sources. Whether he was "making souls" in Haran, (Genesis 12:5) waging war in Damascus, (ibid 14:15) or hosting a trio of angels in Alonei Mamre, (ibid 18:2) Avraham was brimming with leadership and initiative. He was charismatic and personable. He was accessible.
Avraham's son Yitzchak, (Isaac), on the other hand, seems to embody all the opposite attributes. He strikes us as passive. He is more a reactor than an enactor, as was his father. Whereas Avraham was making souls and waging war, Yitzchak was digging wells and staying one step ahead of Avimelech and his contentious shepherds, avoiding conflict at any cost. (ibid 26:15-31) Yitzchak is a model of introspection. The very act of digging wells suggests something that is under the surface, hidden from the light of day. The love of his life, Rivkah, (Rebecca), was brought to him while he was in his field meditating (ibid 24:63). Yitzchak embodies the inner life.
The worldly Avraham, friend to G-d and friend to man, has given birth to Yitzchak, so much his father's opposite. Yet, in what will be known as the greatest of the ten tests with which G-d tested Avraham, Avraham and Yitzchak walked and acted as one. This is the test of the binding of Yitzchak, known in Hebrew as the akeidah. The test is, of course, the test of Avraham, who was called upon by G-d to perform a commandment that contradicted everything that Avraham thought he know about the nature of G-d; everything that he had been teaching to his fellow man. Avraham had to subjugate his will to the will of G-d, and by doing so, prove to every witness of his act, that he was indeed a servant of the One G-d. But this was only half of the balancing act that was required of Avraham. He also had to include Yitzchak in this act of selflessness and solidarity: solidarity between man and G-d, between father and son, between patriarch and each and every generation of the people that he fathered.
The site of this test, of this great binding of hearts and souls, was Mount Moriah, named, albeit somewhat mysteriously, for the first time in Torah. The akeidah (binding) narrative (ibid 22:1-18) refers to the place alternatively as "the land of Moriah," (ibid 22:2) and, in Avraham's own words, as "the mountain where HaShem will be seen." (ibid 22:14) And it was on this very spot that one generation later, Yaakov, the son of Yitzchak, would lay down his head and dream a dream in which a ladder stretched from the heavens to the earth. (ibid 28:12) This is the site of the Holy Temple. And just as Yaakov inherited both the extroverted qualities of his grandfather Avraham, and the introverted qualities of his father Yitzchak, and synthesized these opposites, harmonizing and balancing them, so too would the Holy Temple eventually come to embody and perpetuate this unity of opposites.
The Holy Temple is a "house of prayer for all nations," (Isaiah 56:7) open and welcome to all who come to worship the One G-d. Yet the inner courtyards of the Holy Temple are open only to Israel. The Temple Sanctuary, (the Kodesh), is open only to the Kohanim, (Priests), and into the Holy of Holies only the Kohen Gadol, (High Priest), can enter, and only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur.
The Holy Temple is the place from which Israel connects to all the nations, where offerings are made on behalf of all the nations, and where all the nations can bring offerings and offer up their prayers. And the Holy Temple is the place where the nation of Israel is most intimately united with the G-d of Israel.
In the Holy Temple Israel defines itself, fulfills its potential and sends forth Torah to the four corners of the earth. The Holy Temple is a mountain for uniting hearts and minds, a field for quiet meditation and a place of dreams and their realization. It is our patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who, with their own unique strengths built the foundations of the Holy Temple, and bequeathed its healing and harmonizing powers to Israel and all the nations.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss today's news headlines as they were first reported thousands of years ago by Torah in the lives of Avraham and Yitzchak. The binding of Yitzchak on Mount Moriah provides the real subtext to the conflict between Yitzchak and Yishmael, and between Torah and Islam which today is being clarified and rectified in that very place... "as it is said, on the mountain HaShem will be seen." (Gen. 22:14)