Shiur #11: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina - (Part II) - Adam and the Mikdash ֠The Creation of Man and His Sacrifice

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

            In the previous lecture, I discussed the relationship between the creation of the world and the Mikdash.  In this lecture I wish to examine the creation of man from the dust taken from Mount Moriya, the place of the altar.

 

I.          THE CREATION OF MAN FROM THE PLACE OF THE ALTAR

 

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.  (Bereishit 2:7)

 

"Of the ground" – Rabbi Berakhya and Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman: He was created from [dust taken from] the place of his atonement.  This is what is stated: "An altar of earth you shall make to me" (Shemot 20:21).  The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I shall create him from [dust taken from] the place of his atonement; would that he be able to endure.  (Bereishit Rabba 14, 8)

 

Rabbi Yuda ben Pazi said: The Holy One, blessed be He, took a ladleful [of dust] from the place of the altar, and created the first man from it.  He said: Would that he be created from the place of the altar and be able to endure! This is what is written: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground" (Bereishit 2:7).  And it is written: "An altar of earth you shall make to me" (Shemot 20:21).  Just as "earth" below [refers to] the altar, so too here [it refers to] the altar.  (Yerushalmi, Nazir 6:2)

 

            Parallel to the world, which was created from the even ha-shetiya in the Holy of Holies, man was created from dust taken from the place of the altar.[1] Man, made of clay and full of weaknesses, was created from the place of "the altar of earth," where he can repair his "earthen" side and atone for his actions.  This fills man with hope: despite his weaknesses, he knows that it is within his capabilities to repair, atone, and even to endure in the future.

 

            A second aspect of creation from the place of the altar is that man was created from a place of purity and holiness (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 12).  That is to say, from the very beginning, man was whole – without deficiencies, without impurity, and without baseness.

 

            Rashi brings another view in his commentary to Bereishit 2:7 (based on Tanchuma, Pekudei 3):

 

He gathered his dust from the four corners [of the earth], in order that wherever he might die, it should receive him for burial.

 

            The Zohar[2] and the Targum attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel[3] bring these two views alongside one another.  The Keli Yakar explains:

 

Even according to the one who says that He gathered his dust from the entire earth, this is what it means: Because the place about which it says, "An altar of earth you shall make to me" has the even ha-shetiya, from which the entire world was founded, so that the dust which He took is from the center of the world – it is as if He gathered his dust from the entire world.  (Keli Yakar, Bereishit 3:23)

 

            In other words, the source – the even ha-shetiya - is connected to the extremities – the entire world - and gives expression to them.

 

II.        FROM THE PLACE OF THE ALTAR TO THE GARDEN OF EDEN AND BACK

 

We saw above that the word "adama," "of the ground," was understood by Chazal as teaching that man was created from the place of the altar, east of the site of the structure of the Temple.  The Torah continues:

 

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom He had formed.  (Bereishit 2:7-8)

 

            The passage implies that man was not created in the Garden of Eden, but rather he was brought there from the place where he had been created, which apparently was close by (this is noted by Radak and Chizkuni, ad loc.).[4] This also follows from what is stated about Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden:

 

Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  (Bereishit 3:23)

 

            This is also the way the matter is described in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer:

 

The Holy One, blessed be He, had great love for the first man, whom He had created from a pure and holy place.  And from which place did He take him? From the place of the Temple, and he brought him into His palace.  As it is stated: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it" (Bereishit 2:15).  (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 12)

 

"So he drove out the man" (Bereishit 3:24) – He was driven out and he left the Garden of Eden and he settled himself on Mount Moriya, for the gate to the Garden of Eden is close to Mount Moriya.  From there He took him and there He returned him… As it is stated: "To till the ground from whence he was taken." (ibid., chap. 20)[5]

 

            What follows from all this is that man was created from the place of the altar on Mount Moriya, taken from there to the Garden of Eden (which is close to Mount Moriya), and following his sin, he was driven out and returned to Mount Moriya, the place from which he had been created, to till the ground from which he had been taken.

 

            This process accords with the words of the midrash, "He was created from [dust taken from] the place of his atonement." Man is returned to the place of the altar: from there he had been created, and there he must repair his sin.  It turns out, then, that the place of creation is also the place of repair: man was created from a place that affords him the opportunity to engage in self-repair.[6] As stated by the Keli Yakar (Bereishit 3:23):

 

The Holy One, blessed be He, created him from the place of his atonement… namely, Mount Moriya, where God sent him to till the land and build from it an earthen altar and offer upon it a sacrifice that will atone for him.  And since he was taken from that ground, and it is a gate through which he had passed, for the earth filled him with dense matter because of which he fell in sin… Therefore, in the place which caused the sin, there will be his atonement.  For that place, that is, that ground, caused him to sin.  Therefore, that ground must help him achieve atonement, by working it and making of it an altar to offer upon it a bullock that has horns and hoofs.

 

III.       ADAM BUILDS AN ALTAR AND OFFERS A SACRIFICE UPON IT

 

Although there is no hint to this in Scripture, various sources testify to a tradition that Adam built an altar to God on Mount Moriya and offered a sacrifice upon it.  As the Rambam writes:

 

The place of the altar is exceedingly precise, and it is never to be changed… There is a widespread tradition that the place where David and Shlomo built the altar in the threshing floor of Aravna is the place where Avraham built an altar and bound Yitzchak upon it.  And this is the place where Noach built [an altar] when he came out of the ark, and this is the altar upon which Kayin and Hevel offered sacrifice, and upon which Adam offered sacrifice when he was created, and from there he was created.  The Sages have said: Adam was created from the place of his atonement.  (Hilkhot Bet Ha-bechira 2:1-2)[7]

 

            And in the midrash we find:

 

"And Noach built an altar to the Lord" (Bereishit 8:20)… Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: On the great altar in Jerusalem, where Adam had offered sacrifice, as it is stated: "And it shall please the Lord better than an ox or a bullock that has horns and hoofs" (Tehillim 69:32).  (Bereishit Rabba 34, 9)

 

            The midrash's citation of the verse in Tehillim is an allusion to the midrash of Rav Yehuda, that the "bullock sacrificed by Adam had one horn in its forehead, as it is stated: 'And it shall please the Lord better than an ox, or a bullock that has a horn [sic] and hoofs'" (Shabbat 28b; Avoda Zara 8a [in the name of Shmuel; Chullin 60a).[8] Scripture does not say when Adam offered his sacrifices, what sacrifices he offered, in what circumstance, or to what end he offered them.  The comment of the Targum attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel (Bereishit 8:20) that Adam built an altar after he was driven out of the Garden of Eden owing to his sin accords with the altar's essence as a place of repair and atonement, and with the words of Chazal: "He was created from [dust taken from] the place of his atonement," and it alludes to the essential nature of sacrifices.[9]

 

            We see from here that already at the time of creation, a process began by which man could repair himself and draw near to God through the sacrificial service that maintains the world (Avot 1:2).  From the time of creation, a connection also began between man and his Creator, the objective of which is to elevate man - and the entire world along with him – back to his source.  Already at this initial stage, the uniqueness of Mount Moriya found expression through the actions of man – building an altar and offering sacrifices.  Indeed, the midrash sees the sacrificial service as man's first mission, from the moment that he was placed in the Garden of Eden:

 

Another explanation: "To till it (le-ovda) and to keep it (le-shomra)" (Bereishit 2:15) – these are the sacrifices, as it is stated: "You shall serve (ta'avdun) God" (Shemot 3:12), and it is stated: "You shall observe (tishmeru) to offer to Me in their due season" (Bamidbar 28:2).  (Bereishit Rabba 15, 4)

 

            See also Bamidbar Rabba 4, 8, where Adam is seen as the first in the line of the priesthood, which continued among the patriarchs and eventually reached the tribe of Levi.[10]

 

***

 

            In this lecture, I examined the significance of the world having been created from the place of the altar and of the sacrifice that was offered there.  In the next lecture, I will discuss the connection between the Garden of Eden and the Temple, as well as Kayin and Hevel and Noach's connection to the place.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


 


[1] This correspondence is connected in essence to the two supreme objectives of the Mikdash – the resting of the Shekhina and man's service of God in His house.  The Shekhina rests in the world from the even ha-shetiya, and man worships God from the site of the altar, as we saw in Lecture 5. 

[2] Zohar, Bereishit 130a: "Come and see, when the Holy One, blessed be He, created man, he took dust from the place of the Temple and built his body from the four corners of the world."

[3] See note 5.

[4] Chizkuni expands on the idea: "But the beginning of his creation was not from there, for had he been created in the Garden of Eden, he would have thought that the whole world was like that.  But He created him outside, where he saw that the whole world is full of thorns and thistles, and afterwards He brought him into the Garden of Eden, the chosen place."

[5] See also the Targum attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel in Bereishit 2:7,15 and 3:23: "And He took dust from the place of the Temple and from the four corners of the world… And the Lord God took man from Mount Moriya, the place from which he had been created, and placed him in the Garden of Eden… And the Lord God drove him out of the Garden of Eden and he settled on Mount Moriya."

[6] Rav Makover suggests another possibility in his book, Oro Shel Mikdash ([Jerusalem, 5765], part 2, p. 15).  In extension of Rashi's comment to the verse, "And He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden" (Bereishit 3:24): "Eastward of the Garden of Eden and outside of it," Rav Makover suggests that the place of the Mikdash itself should be identified with the Garden of Eden; man was driven out from there eastward to the place of the altar, from where he had been created, and where he would find repair.  He concludes by saying that this point is in consonance with the claim of Chazal that "the Shekhina is in the west" (Bava Batra 25a-b); while Hashem's presence is in the west, we are in the east and face the dark side of the world in order to illuminate it.  This suggestion also fits in with the relationship between east and west in the Temple in particular, to which I shall devote a separate lecture.

I have two difficulties with this suggestion.  First, despite the essential connection that undoubtedly exists between the Temple and the Garden of Eden, no early source identifies the one with the other.  Second, the idea that man was expelled from the place of the Mikdash to the place of the altar in the wake of his sin would appear to give the altar and man's service in the Mikdash in general a be-di'eved status.  (I shall deal with this issue in the Lectures dealing with the question whether the Mikdash was lekhatchila or bedi'eved).

[7] It is interesting that the Rambam emphasizes the tradition regarding the site of the altar, whereas he makes no mention of the tradition that the world was created from the even ha-shetiya.  This fits in with his general outlook that emphasizes human action relating to Divine reality and sees sanctity as a consequence of such action, as well as his understanding that the primary objective of the Mikdash is man's worship therein (see Lecture 9).  This, apparently, is the reason that the Rambam sees the altar, and not the Holy of Holies, as the special place in the Mikdash; it is only the altar whose "place is exceedingly precise, and never to be changed."

[8] It is interesting that Adam sacrificed a bullock, even though he himself was forbidden to eat meat.

[9] So, too, writes Rav Makover in his book mentioned above in note 6 (p. 19): "It should be noted that the High Priest's bullock sacrificed on Yom Kippur is a continuation of the atonement for the sin of Adam.  So too the sprinkling of the blood in the Holy of Holies on that day achieves atonement for Adam's sin, which brought about the fall of the entire world.  Chazal also describe how Adam offered this sacrifice in regret when he saw night fall and feared that the world had been destroyed on account of his sin, and how with the rise of dawn he offered a thanksgiving offering to God."

[10] "Adam was the firstborn of the world, and when he offered his sacrifice, as it is stated: 'And it shall please the Lord better than an ox or a bullock that has horns and hoofs' (Tehilim 69:32), he wore the garments of the High Priest… When Adam died, they were passed to Shet.  Shet passed them to Metushelach.  When Metushelach died, they were passed to Noach.  Noach rose up and offered a sacrifice, as it is stated: 'And he took of every clean beast' (ibid. 8:20).  Noach died and they were passed to Shem… And know that Shem offered sacrifices, as it is stated: 'And Malki-Tzedek king of Shalem, etc.' (ibid. 14:18)… because he sacrificed with priests.  Shem died and they were passed to Avraham… and he offered a sacrifice, as it is stated: 'And he offered it up for a burnt offering in place of his son' (ibid. 22:13).  Avraham died and they were passed to Yitzchak.  Yitzchak rose up and passed it to Yaakov… When Yaakov took over as firstborn, he began to offer sacrifices, as it is stated: 'And God said to Yaakov, Arise, go up to Bet-El, and dwell there, and make there an altar' (ibid. 35:1).  And so too when Moshe offered sacrifices at Sinai, it was the firstborns who offered the sacrifices, as it is stated: 'And he sent the young men of the children of Israel, etc.' (Shemot 24:5)… And when Israel did that deed [= the sin of the golden calf], they said: Let the firstborns come and offer sacrifices before it… God said to them: I will remove the firstborns and bring in the children of Levi."