"I will surely bless you"
This week's Torah reading begins with Avraham avinu - our patriarch Abraham - in quintessential form, simultaneously recovering from his recent circumcision, experiencing a close encounter with G-d, generously hosting three wayfarers at his crossroads tent, and receiving the heartening news that he and Sara, despite their advanced years, will indeed be parenting a son, Yitzchak, (Isaac). For Avraham this intensified multi-tasking is seemingly effortless. We honor G-d by honoring our fellow man just as our love of our fellow man enhances and is enhanced by our devotion to G-d. This was the way of Avraham, how he grew to recognize G-d and appreciate the world which He created. This was how he lived his life and how he taught all whom he encountered and all who gathered around him to live their lives. To be sure, life contained many hardships for Avraham and many challenges that he needed to overcome, but it all made sense. And now, the last great question in his life, the final uncertainty of who would inherit his mantle of spiritual leadership and receive the promises G-d had made to him that his progeny will become a great nation and that they will inherit the land of Israel, at long last has been answered: He will, indeed, father a son by Sara. His long trek into an unknown land has been rewarded. Life is good.
And Avraham's life continues to grow richer as he finds himself a true partner with G-d in deliberating over the fate of the wicked city of Sodom, and one year later he and Sara are blessed with the greatest gift of all, their son Yitzchak. Were the camera to fade here and the credits to begin to roll, we could call it a clear cut rags-to-riches, (or at least, idolatry to spiritual enlightenment), story with a classic happy ending.
But the curtain doesn't close here and instead Avraham receives an unprecedented test from G-d: "Take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Yitzchak, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:2) With this one commandment every understanding that Avraham had ever arrived at throughout his life about how G-d expresses His will and about the nature of man and how man is to worship G-d, is called into question. Worse, the basic tenets of faith that Avraham had spent a long lifetime teaching to others at once have come into sharp contradiction with G-d's will.
What should Avraham do? Follow his own moral compass and betray the direct word of G-d? Through his teachings he has already engendered a new reality in the world, a new fellowship of man. Should he risk that by now shunning his own teachings? Will his students and followers be plunged into confusion if he should do as G-d commands? Will Avraham lose the respect and standing that he has achieved throughout his long and arduous life? After all, human sacrifice, not to mention the offering up of one's own son is the very antithesis of the loving and caring G-d whom Avraham has come to believe in and teach to others. Yet Avraham, without a moment's hesitation, acts upon G-d's commandment: "And Avraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Yitzchak his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which G-d had told him." (ibid 22:3)
Today we witness world leaders hesitating and endlessly deliberating over whether the west, let alone Israel, should militarily destroy Iran's nuclear facilities before the fanatical Islamic regime gains nuclear weapons capabilities. Could a situation possibly exist in which the moral imperative to do right in order to prevent a horrible evil from occurring be any clearer? Still, serious men dither and become distracted by issues that pale in light of the seriousness of the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Avraham acted without hesitation because he knew in his heart that the world is informed by the will of G-d and not by the reasoned logic of Avraham. Yes, G-d had just thrown a huge wrench into everything that Avraham had come to understand as being right and true, but Avraham, unlike the builders of the tower of Bavel, never sought to replace G-d, only to follow G-d. In truth, Avraham's decision couldn't have been easier. And by following G-d into the seemingly unsolvable conundrum of the akeidah - the binding of Yitzchak - Avraham enabled G-d to make true His promise to Avraham, which by all logical accounts was at that moment being contradicted and nullified. For if Avraham had not risked it all by adhering without question to G-d's word, his progeny would never have merited the greatness that G-d promised, nor would they have inherited the land that G-d promised. Ultimately, Avraham's show of supreme faith in G-d did not contradict, but on the contrary, confirmed all that he had taught about G-d and His love for mankind.
The question of Iran's nuclear pursuits aside, the question of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as it exists today, forms the perfect parallel to Avraham's binding of Yitzchak on Mount Moriah. G-d's will is clear: We are to build Him a Sanctuary on this very spot. The seeming threat to Israel's existence should Israel act positively upon G-d's will and commence building the Holy Temple, is every bit as clear as the threat that Avraham was presented with. And the clear and present danger of not taking positive action concerning the Temple Mount is likewise every bit as acute as the danger that awaited Avraham had he demurred from performing G-d's word.
Four thousand years later we have come full circle. The history shaping import of the binding of Yitzchak on Mount Moriah, is mirrored perfectly by the history making import that beckons us from Mount Moriah, (the Temple Mount), today. Should we, like Avraham, choose correctly, greatness awaits us: "'That I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your descendants will inherit the cities of their enemies. And through your children shall be blessed all the nations of the world, because you hearkened to My voice.'" (ibid 22:17-18)
"Rachel died, and was buried on the road to Efrat, which is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel's grave until today" (Gen. 35)
"Thus said Hashem: A voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children for they are gone... Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears... there is hope for your future... and your children will return to their border" (Jer. 31).
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven mark the passing of our matriarch Rachel, who sheds tears for her children's exile to this very day. But a visit to the beautiful and moving Rachel's tomb, just minutes outside of Jerusalem, is a passage into "Palestinian" controlled area, where Rachel's tomb is now enclosed in a concrete, militarized bunker... for the protection of her children, who come there daily to pray. Who's crying now? Who's crying louder, and wailing more bitterly - Rachel, over her children's exile, or the children, over the degradation, exile and "imprisonment" of their dear mother? Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Richman reflect upon the character of our mother Rachel, her selfless heroism, and the legacy she passed down to her children.
Abraham passed down a legacy as well... in fact, the entire life of Abraham, as well as the other patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel as recorded in the book of Genesis, form an intricate and detailed plan for their children's future. The events along the road of Abraham's spiritual odyssey instruct us in what we must do, as well as what we must expect.
Our hosts are joined in the studio by good friends, our special guests Glen and Kevin Harlan of Snyder, TX, who are also on a spiritual odyssey in the Land of Israel, as they seek to connect with Hashem, Torah and Israel on a deeper level.