Shiur #14: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina - (Part V) - The Service of God During the Days of Avraham Until the Akeida

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

 

            During the period between Adam and Avraham, it became clear that it would be impossible to repair the world through the efforts of individuals alone.  Adam, Kayin, Enosh, and Noach all failed to live up to God's demands.  "The decision was made" to repair the world through a nation, and Avraham was chosen to establish a family that would develop into a nation that would serve God.

 

            In this lecture, I will continue to relate to expressions of Divine service.  I will discuss the nature of the patriarchs' worship of God in general, and the service of God during the days of Avraham until the Akeida in particular.

 

I.          THE WORSHIP OF GOD DURING THE PERIOD OF THE PATRIARCHS: ALTAR AND SACRIFICE

 

A distinction must be made between the two main expressions of the Divine service of the patriarchs: the offering of sacrifices and the construction of altars (mizbe'ach) and pillars (matzeva).

 

The patriarchs offered the following sacrifices: Avraham offered a ram at the Akeida (Bereishit 22:13), and in a certain sense he offered sacrifices at the time of the brit bein ha-betarim (ibid. 15:9-10, 17); Yaakov offered sacrifices at Mount Gilad (ibid. 31:54) and on his way to Egypt (ibid. 46:1) (and in Bet-El he poured oil on a pillar [ibid. 28:18; 35:14]).  Other than these, we find no sacrifices brought by the patriarchs or by the twelve sons of Yaakov.

 

In contrast, all the patriarchs built altars.  Avraham built four altars: in Shekhem (ibid. 12:7), between Bet-El and Ai (ibid. v.8), in Chevron (ibid.  13:18), and on Mount Moriya (ibid.  22:9).[1] Yitzchak built one altar in Be'er-Sheva (ibid. 26:25).  And Yaakov built altars in Shekhem (ibid. 33:20) and in Bet-El (ibid. 35:7).

 

What is interesting is that at most of these altars, sacrifices were not offered.  To put it more precisely, in most cases the Torah does not describe the offering of a sacrifice that accompanied the building of the altar.  Despite the fact that the word mizbe'ach (altar) stems from the root z-b-ch, "slaughter," the building of an altar seems to have spiritual significance in its own right, unconnected to the offering of sacrifices.[2]

 

There are two exceptions to this rule: At the Akeida Avraham offers a ram on the altar that he had built in order to offer Yitzchak thereon; and it stands to reason that Yaakov offered his sacrifices in Be'er-Sheva on the altar that Yitzchak had erected there, although the Torah does not state this explicitly.  With respect to the patriarchs,[3] then, we find explicit mention of only one altar upon which a sacrifice was offered, whereas in all other cases the altars were erected unconnected to sacrifices.

 

In addition to this, Yaakov erected pillars in Bet-El, upon which he poured oil (ibid.  28:18; 35:14).  Yaakov is the only patriarch to have built pillars; the next pillars mentioned in the Torah are those of Moshe at the foot of Mount Sinai (Shemot 24:4).

 

II.        THE ALTARS BUILT BY THE PATRIARCHS - OVERVIEW

 

See how cunning the wicked Bilam was.  He opened by saying: "I have prepared the seven altars" (Bamidbar 23:4) – he did not say "[seven] altars" but rather "the [seven] altars." These are the seven altars that had been built from the time that Adam was created until now.  (Tanchuma 96, 1)

 

            The patriarchs built seven altars: Avraham built four, Yitzchak one, and Yaakov two.

 

            It is interesting to note where the patriarchs built their altars: Avraham built in Shekhem, between Bet-El and Ai, in Chevron, and on Mount Moriya; Yitzchak built in Be'er-Sheva; and Yaakov built in Shekhem and in Bet-El.  Each of the patriarchs built altars in places that were characteristic of their respective activities and in the areas where they wandered and settled.  Avraham built altars along the main course that cuts across Eretz Israel, from Shekhem to Chevron.  Yitzchak built an altar in Be'er-Sheva, his primary place of residence, close to the land of the Pelishtim.  And Yaakov followed in the path of Avraham and built altars in Shekhem and in Bet-El, places connected specifically to the sons of Rachel; Shekhem is the capital of the tribal territories of Yosef, on the border between the territories of Efrayim and Menashe, and Bet-El lies on the future border between the territories of Efrayim and Binyamin.

 

The Midrashim deal in particular with the altars that were built by Avraham.  The Midrash in Bereishit Rabba (39, 16) says as follows:

 

Rabbi Elazar said: He built three altars,[4] one upon receiving the tiding about Eretz Israel, one upon acquiring it, and one so that his children not fall.

 

            The altar built upon receiving the tiding about Eretz Israel is the altar in Shekhem, the first place in which God appeared to Avraham in Eretz Israel.  The altar built upon acquiring it is the altar built in Chevron, the first place to be purchased in Eretz Israel; and the altar built so that his children not fall is the altar built between Bet-El and Ai, where the battle of Ai would take place in the days of Yehoshua.

 

            The Torah Sheleima (Bereishit 12:8, notes to letter 124) brings a rabbinic statement in the name of a manuscript of Chem'at Ha-Chemda, parts of which were published in Ginzei Yerushalayim, vol. III, according to which Avraham built four altars:

 

"And he built there an altar." Avraham built four altars.

One in Shekhem in Elonei Moreh [it seems to me that it atoned for the sale of Yosef in Shekhem where his brothers and for the heifers of Yerovam ben Nevat, after which Israel strayed, and there Yehoshua renewed the covenant].

A second altar in Ai, it being the first land conquered by their swords and from which they benefited.

A third altar in Elonei Mamre in Chevron, where David was anointed to serve as nasi forever [it also seems to me because there he performed his circumcision for the sake of the Holy One, blessed be He, and he built there an altar].

And the fourth on Mount Moriya, where Shlomo would build the eternal house [of God], because the binding of Yitzchak had taken place there.[5]

 

            According to both midrashim, the objective of the altars was not the offering of sacrifices; rather, they express certain matters related to the places where they were erected.  All agree that the building of the altars was not connected exclusively to "the here and now" – to what happened during the days of Avraham – but they were part of a future vision of central events in the history of the Jewish people.  The altars came to express those events or to impact upon them in the sense of "the deeds of the fathers are an omen for the children."

 

III.       ALTAR – APPEARANCE, PILLAR - SPEECH

 

            The Torah clearly distinguishes between an altar (mizbe'ach) and a pillar (matzeva).  An altar is connected in its very essence to God's appearance to man.  Thus, we find regarding the first altar built by Avraham:

 

And Avram passed through the land to the place of Shekhem unto Elon Moreh… And the Lord appeared to Avram, and said, To your seed will I give this land; and there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.  (Bereishit 12:6-7)

 

            The Ramban comments (ad loc.):

 

The meaning of "to the Lord, who had appeared to him," for he expressed gratitude to the venerable God, and brought a thanksgiving offering for having appeared to him.  For until then God had not appeared to him, and had not made Himself known to him in a vision, but he was told, "Go forth from your land" (Bereishit 12:1) in a nocturnal dream or through the holy spirit.  It is also possible that "who had appeared to him" alludes to the mystery of a sacrifice.  He who understands will understand.

 

            The Torah says about Yitzchak when he was in Be'er-Sheva:

 

And the Lord appeared to him that same night, and said, 'I am the God of Avraham, your father; fear not, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for My servant Avraham's sake.' And he built an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord.  (ibid. 26:24-25)

 

            And regarding Yaakov, when he returned from Charan, it says:

 

And God said to Yaakov, "Arise, go up to Be-El, and dwell there: and make there an altar to God, who appeared to you when you did flee from the face of Esav your brother…" And Yaakov came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bet El… And he built there an altar, and called the place El-Bet-El: because there God appeared to him, when he fled from the face of his brother… And God appeared to Yaakov again,[6] when he came out of Padan-Aram, and blessed him.  (ibid. 35:1, 6-9)

 

            We see, then, that each of the three patriarchs built an altar in the wake of God's appearance to him: Avraham in Shekhem, in Elon Moreh, when he entered the land; Yitzchak in Be'er-Sheva; and Yaakov in Bet-El, in fulfillment of his vow when he returned to Eretz Israel.  God's appearance to the patriarchs results in the building of an altar, and as stated above, the emphasis is on the very building of the altar, without any mention of the offering of a sacrifice.

 

            As opposed to the altar, the pillar that Yaakov erected upon his return to Bet-El after God's second appearance to him is connected specifically to God's talking to him:

 

And Yaakov set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone.  (ibid. v. 14)

 

            In many senses, Divine speech is more elevated than Divine appearance.  God appears in the Temple courtyard and in the Heihkal, but in the Holy of Holies – the innermost chamber – it is impossible to see the ark (it is not by chance that entry into the Holy of Holies requires the burning of ketoret, which constitutes a barrier between man and the revelation of the Shekhina between the two keruvim).  God's revelation there is characterized by hearing the voice of God that issues forth from between the two keruvim.

 

IV.       AVRAHAM'S ALTARS

 

1.         THE ALTAR IN SHEKHEM

 

And Avraham passed through the land to the place of Shekhem unto Elon Moreh… And the Lord appeared to Avram, and said, "To your seed will I give this land." And there he built an altar to the Lord,[7] who had appeared to him.  (ibid. 12:6-7)

 

            Scripture emphasizes that the altar was built in the aftermath of God's appearance to Avram.[8] This revelation constitutes a fulfillment of the Divine promise, "Go you out… to the land that I will show you" (ibid. v. 1).  It is for this reason - and also for the promise concerning his descendants and the land – that Avram thanks God by building an altar.  As the midrash states (Bereishit Rabba 39:15): "He built an altar for the tidings about Eretz Israel." The Radak says: "As a show of gratitude to God who had appeared to him and told him of the land, that is good and spacious, flowing with milk and honey, and that He will give to his seed."

 

            This is also the understanding of the Ramban, cited above.  The Ramban is precise when he says there: "It is possible that 'who had appeared to him' alludes to the mystery of a sacrifice." That is to say, according to him, Avraham also offered a sacrifice.  We find in Bamidbar Rabba 10: "… Just as Avraham did - when the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, 'To your seed will I give this land,' Avraham immediately built an altar, as it is written: 'And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.' And 'altar' is nothing but a sacrifice." We already noted, however, that according to the plain sense of Scripture, no sacrifices were offered here (as we have already emphasized on numerous occasions, inferences must be made not only from what the Torah says, but also from what it does not say).

 

2.         THE ALTAR BETWEEN BET-EL AND AI

 

And he removed from there to a mountain on the east of Bet-El, and pitched his tent, having Bet-El on the west and Ai on the east, and there he built an altar to the Lord, and called on the name of the Lord.  (ibid. v. 8)

 

            The novelty here is the calling on the name of the Lord,[9] which is central to Avraham's activity and which repeats itself in the continuation: "And Avraham planted a tamarisk in Be'er-Sheva, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God" (ibid. 21:33).  This calling on the name of the Lord means calling out to all of mankind to worship God, to accept the yoke of His kingship, and to observe His commandments.  As Resh Lakish explains in tractate Sota (10b) with respect to the tamarisk in Be'er-Sheva:

 

"And he called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God." Resh Lakish said: Read not "and he called" but "and he made to call," thereby teaching that our father Avraham caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be uttered by the mouth of every passer-by.  How was this? After [travelers] had eaten and drunk, they stood up to bless him; but he said to them: "Did you eat of mine? You ate of that which belongs to the God of the Universe.  Thank, praise and bless Him who spoke and the world came into being."

 

            Onkelos understands the expression, "And he called on the name of the Lord," as denoting prayer: "And he prayed using the name of the Lord." And so, too, explained Rashi: "He prophesied that his descendants would eventually stumble there through Achan's transgression; therefore he prayed there for them" (based on Bereishit Rabba 39, 16).  It seems, however, that the plain sense of the text is as understood by the Ramban:

 

"And he called on the name of the Lord" – Onkelos explained: He prayed there, as in "I called upon your name, O Lord, out of the nethermost pit" (Eikha 3:55).  And the correct interpretation is that he would call out loud the name of the Lord before the altar, informing the people of Him and His Divinity.  Because in Ur Kasdim, he would teach them, but they refused to listen, and now that he came to the land about which it was promised, "And I will bless those who bless you," he was accustomed to teach and publicize God's Divinity.  And so, too, Scripture says about Yitzchak when he goes to Nachal Gerar and he is promised: "Fear not, for I am with you" (Bereishit 26:24), that he built an altar "and he called on the name of the Lord" (ibid. v. 25), for he came to a new place where people had not heard of Him and had not seen His glory, and he reported of His glory among those people.  But it does not say this about Yaakov, because he fathered many sons all of whom worshipped God, and he had a large community called the congregation of Israel, and the faith was widely known among them.  And also because from the days of Avraham it has been publicized throughout the land of Canaan.  And so, too, they said in Bereishit Rabba (39:16): "This teaches that he caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be uttered by the mouth of every person."

 

            This is also the understanding of the Radak, as well as that of the Ibn Ezra, who writes in short: "'And he called on the name of the Lord' – prayer; or else calling upon people to serve God." The midrash adds (Bereishit Rabba 39:16): "Another explanation: 'And he called on' – he began to convert converts and bring them under the wings of the Shekhina."

 

3.         THE ALTAR IN CHEVRON

 

And the Lord said to Avram, after Lot was separated from him, "Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever.  And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered.  Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you." Then Avram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in Elonei Mamre, which is in Chevron, and built there an altar to the Lord.  (ibid. 13:14-18)

 

            The Radak explains: "He would call people to the name of the Lord in the place of the altar that he built.  Wherever he would settle, he would build an altar and call on the name of the Lord."[10]

 

V.        MALKI-TZEDEK KING OF SHALEM – A PRIEST OF THE MOST HIGH GOD

 

            Following Avram's war against the four kings, we read:

 

And Malki-Tzedek king of Shalem brought out bread and wine: and he was a priest of the most-high God.  And he blessed him, and said, 'Blessed be Avram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most-high God, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' And he gave him a tithe of everything.  (Bereishit 14:18-20)

 

            Chazal identify Malki-Tzedek with Shem the son of Noach (see Rashi and the Targum attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel, ad loc.).  The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 43, 6) connects the bread and wine to the showbread and the libations in the Temple.  The Ramban explains:

 

"And Malki-Tzedek king of Shalem" – this is Jerusalem… for the nations always knew that this place is the most select place in the middle of the civilized world.  Or else they knew by tradition that it corresponds to the heavenly Temple, the place of the Shekhina of the Holy One, blessed be He, who is called "Tzedek" (righteousness).

And it says: "And he was a priest of the most high God" – to inform us that Avraham would not have given the tithe to a priest of other gods, but because he knew that he was a priest to the most high God he gave him the tithe in honor of God.  This was an allusion to Avraham that the house of God would be located there, and there his seed would set aside ma'aser and teruma, and there they would bless God.

 

            We see from here that the unique qualities of the place were known already in the early generations, and that there was a continuous relationship with the place from the time of creation: Adam, Kayin and Hevel, Noach, and his son Shem – all recognized the unique qualities of the place and worshipped God there.[11]

 

VI.       THE COVENANT WITH AVRAHAM (BRIT BEIN HA-BETARIM)

 

1)         THE SACRIFICE

 

And He said to him, "Take Me a heifer three years old, and a goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon." And he took to him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half against the other, but the birds he divided not… And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.  In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying, "To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Perat: the Keni, and the Kenizi, and the Kadmoni, and the Hitti, and the Perizi, and the Refaim, and the Emori, and the Cana'ani, and the Girgashi, and the Yevusi." (Bereishit 15:9-10, 17-21)

 

            According to the simple meaning, the animals were divided as part of a covenant.  As Rashi explains (v. 10, s.v. va-yevater otam): "And as it was the custom for parties to a covenant to divide an animal and to pass between its parts, as it is said elsewhere (Yirmiyahu 34:19), 'who passed between the parts of the calf,' so also here the smoking furnace and the flaming torch which passed between the pieces were representative of the Divine Shekhina which is spoken of as a fire."

 

            A comment of the Radak (v. 9) suggests that we might be dealing here with a sacrificial act: "And it mentions the three types of animals which are fit for sacrifice, alluding thereby that as long as they offer sacrifices in proper manner, they will not be exiled from the land" (a similar interpretation is found in Pesikta Rabbati, parasha 15).  The Meshekh Chokhma also understood the matter in this way (v. 9):

 

It is possible that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave Adam domination over the plant world to eat and consume of it for his needs, and he offered a sacrifice.  And He permitted animals to Noach, and he offered a sacrifice.  And He gave Avram ten nations for his needs, and therefore He commanded him to offer three sacrifices corresponding to animals, plants, and human beings.  Understand this.

 

            That is to say, sacrifices are offered in the framework of receiving dominion over part of God's world, and here ten nations were given to Avraham.

 

            Yehuda Kil summarizes this story in the Da'at Mikra commentary as follows (Bereishit, vol. I, p. 426):

 

All the animals that Avram was commanded to take for the sake of God ("take Me") are included among the clean animals that are fit for sacrifice.  Without a doubt, the simple sense of Scripture speaks of taking animals "as was custom for parties to a covenant" (Rashi), as follows from the prophecy of Yirmiyahu (14:18-20).  Therefore, Scripture here makes no explicit mention of an altar, wood, fire, or a knife (all of which are mentioned in the story of the Akeida, chap.  22).

It seems, however, that those who understand that a sacrificial act accompanied the covenant are correct.  Support for this position may be adduced from other covenants mentioned in the Torah, for we do not find a covenant between God and man that was not accompanied by a sacrifice.  We find this already with Noach, where Scripture juxtaposes commandments and the establishment of a covenant to an altar and sacrifices that had already been brought there (8:20 – 9:17).  Similarly, at the covenant at Sinai (Shemot 24:4 and on).  And so writes also Josephus: "When Avraham heard this [= the tidings about his seed], he arose and offered a sacrifice to God as commanded (Antiquities, I, 184).  You might ask: What happened to the "pieces" after "the smoking furnace and the burning torch passed between those pieces"? Several commentators answer that these were burnt by the fire that issued forth from God, similar to what we find at the dedication of the altar (Vayikra 9:24) and at the dedication of Shlomo's Temple (II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:1 and on).

In short, the words of the Psalmist may be applied to this covenant as well: "Gather My pious ones together to Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice" (Tehilim 50:5).

 

2)         THE REVELATION OF THE SHEKHINA

 

In the context of the revelation of the Shekhina at the covenant made with Avraham, it is fitting to mention Kil's words in his introduction to Bereishit (ibid. p. 108).

 

As is known, Avraham merited the revelation of the Shekhina on seven occasions (Bereishit 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15; 17; 18; 22:16-18).  Two of them are particularly important for our purposes: the fourth revelation, at the berit bein ha-betarim, and the seventh and last revelation, at the Akeida.

It has already been noted (see Benno Jacob in his commentary to Bereishit) that the story of the covenant with Avraham (Bereishit, chap.  15) parallels to a certain degree the story of the giving of the Torah.  The opening verse: "I am the Lord who took you out of Ur Kasdim" (v. 7) parallels the opening verse at the revelation at Sinai: "I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt" (Shemot 20:2).  But there is also a correspondence in the description of the revelation of the Shekhina.  Here (Bereishit 15:17) – "Behold a smoking furnace, and a burning torch that passed between those pieces;" and at the revelation at Sinai the Shekhina is compared not only to fire, but: "And Mount Sinai smoked in every part, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it ascended like the smoke of a furnace" (Shemot 19:18).  And later torches are also mentioned: "And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking, etc." (ibid. 20:14).  Additional common denominators between the two stories are the sacrifices and the number ten.  Here Avraham is promised the lands of ten nations,[12] and there his descendants are given the Ten Commandments.

 

SUMMARY

 

            In this lecture, I examined Avraham's worship of God from the time he entered the Land until (but not including) the Akeida.  I strongly emphasized the building of altars, which was a novel development.  Until the time of Avraham, we find only one altar (with the offering of a sacrifice) built by Noach, whereas Avraham builds many altars in different places and for different purposes.

 

            Whatever the purpose of the altars and the calling upon the name of God, it stands to reason that against the backdrop of the idolatrous practices that were prevalent in Canaan, we are dealing here with the first attempt to create centers for the worship of God in the main cities along the road traveled by Avraham.  This means that, in addition to the unique importance of each altar in the particular place that it was built, calling upon the name of God turns Avraham's settlement in the land into an act that has religious and spiritual significance – drawing the Canaanite inhabitants of the land to the belief in one God.

 

            At the end of the lecture, I briefly examined two additional stops on the Shekhina's journey in the world.  First, we studied the worship of God in the city of Shalem, Jerusalem, headed by its king Malki-Tzedek – whom Chazal identify with Shem the son of Noach and who served as a priest to the most-high God.  Second, we studied the covenant with Avraham, where Avraham's actions can be seen as a sacrificial act, alluding to the future sacrificial service in the sense of "the deeds of the fathers are an omen for the children."

 

***

 

            In the next lecture I will examine the seventh revelation of the Shekhina to Avraham – at the Akeida.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


[1] We dealt at length with the significance of the places in which altars were erected in our lectures on biblical Jerusalem, lectures 1-3, 5765. 

[2] A similar phenomenon – an altar that was not meant for sacrifices but as testimony to the service of God – is found at the end of the days of Yehoshua.  After crossing the Jordan to their territories on the east side of the river, the people of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe build an altar.  The rest of Israel, who saw this as a sign of rebellion against God (this took place during the time that the Mishkan was in Shilo, when bamot were forbidden), sent them a military delegation headed by Pinchas and the princes of Israel.  The eastern tribes explained their actions as follows: "The mighty One, God, the Lord, the mighty One, God, the Lord, He knows and Israel shall know; if in rebellion, or if in transgression against the Lord, (save you us not this day)… Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice: but that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, You have no part in the Lord" (Yehoshua 22:22-27). 

[3] As may be recalled, Noach, who according to the plain sense of Scripture built the first altar in the world, offered burnt-offerings upon it. 

[4] The reference is to altars that Avraham built on his own initiative, to the exclusion of the altar on Mount Moriya.

[5] Midrash Ha-Gadol (Bereishit 13:18) reads: "'He built there an altar' – Avraham built three altars: one in Shekhem, where the blessings and curses were given, and there Yehoshua made a covenant with all of Israel, as it is stated: 'And Yehoshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shekhem' (Yehoshua 24:1); and one in Ai, so that his descendants would be saved from the people of Ai; and one in Chevron, where David was crowned as king, and there a covenant was made, as it is stated: 'So all the elders of Israel came… and king David made a covenant with them in Chevron before the Lord' (II Shmuel 5:3)." Like the midrash in Bereishit Rabba, this midrash also lists only the three altars that Avraham built on his own initiative.

[6] In lecture 8 we noted the causal relationship between human action and Divine revelation: Does the human action result from the revelation, or the opposite, first there is a revelation, and in its wake man builds an altar or brings an offering?

[7] It is interesting that it is specifically the Tetragrammaton that is used in connection with the building of altars.

[8] It is interesting that Avraham was the first person to merit a prophetic vision, as opposed to Divine revelation and speech, which we find already with respect to Adam, Kayin, Hevel, Noach and others.  See Meshekh Chokhma, ad loc. 

[9] There are interesting differences between the altar in Shekhem and the altar between Bet-El and Ai.  It is not by chance that it is precisely in the wake of the revelation at Bet-El that Avraham calls upon the name of the Lord.  Whatever this calling means, it is clear that in Bet-El, Avraham's second stop in the land of Israel, there is not only Divine revelation, but also human worship of God in its wake.  This accords with my understanding that Bet-El was the "natural Mikdash" of the patriarchs; see the lectures mentioned in note 1, above.

[10] It is possible that it was there that the elders of Israel anointed David as king before God (II Shmuel 5:3), and perhaps it was also there that Avshalom wished to worship God (ibid.  15:7-9).

[11] The primary meaning of Avraham's meeting with Malki-TzedekJerusalem's essence as a city of righteousness, and the issue of righteousness and monarchy – was discussed at length in lectures 6-7 of our lectures on biblical Jerusalem, 5765.

[12] Kil adds there in a note: "It is even possible that Avraham offered on that occasion ten sacrifices: three heifers, three goats, three rams, and 'a turtledove and a young pigeon,' which might be understood to mean: 'a turtledove or a young pigeon.' As it is stated in v. 10: 'but the bird (ha-tzippor) he divided not.'"