Shiur #16: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina(Part VI) - Mount Moriya and the Akeida (Part II)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mikdash
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

 

Shiur #16: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina

(Part VI)

Mount Moriya and the Akeida (Part II)

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            In the first part of this lecture, I dealt with the Akeida as an allusion to the Mikdash that would eventually be built on Mount Moriya, and with the connections between the story of the Akeida and the stories of the revelation to Yaakov at Bet-El and the revelation to David at the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi. This part of the lecture will deal with the various meanings of the Akeida for future generations.[1]

 

I.          THE SELECTION OF THE SACRIFICE AND THE SELECTION OF THE PLACE OF THE SACRIFICE

 

R. Mordechai Breuer in his book Pirkei Mo'adot (pp. 332-33) notes that the root resh-alef-heh appears twice in the account of the Akeida in the sense of "choosing" (bet-chet-resh):[2]

 

And Avraham said, "God will choose (yir'eh) Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son…" And Avraham called the name of that place Ad-onai-Yir'eh. (Bereishit 22:8, 14)

 

            In verse 8, Avraham tells Yitzchak that God will choose an appropriate sacrifice. In verse 14, Avraham calls the place "Ad-onai-Yir'eh," which should be understood in the sense of "God will choose;" in other words, this place will be chosen by God, and not by man.

 

            These two acts of choosing appear once again in Parashat Re'eh, where the Torah presents the Divine command to the people of Israel as the absolute opposite of idol worship:

 

You shall utterly destroy all the places in which the nations whom you are to dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every leafy tree. And you shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their ashera trees with fire. And you shall hew down the carvings of their gods, and destroy the name of them out of that place.

This you shall not do the Lord your God. But the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, there shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there shall you come. (Devarim 12:2-5)

 

            As opposed to the idol worshippers, who choose where they will serve their gods – "upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every leafy tree" – Israel is commanded to seek out God's dwelling place and to serve God in the place that God chooses to put His name. These verses parallel the story of the Akeida with respect to the selection of the place of Divine worship.

 

            The parallel with respect to the choice of sacrifice appears at the end of the chapter in Devarim:

 

Take heed to yourself that you be not ensnared into following them after they are destroyed from before you and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? Even so, will I do likewise." You shall not do so to the Lord your God; for every abomination to the Lord, which He hates, have they done to their gods, for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. Every matter which I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (ibid. 12:30-31 – 13:1)

 

            Here, too, the Torah contrasts the people of Israel and the nations of the world; the idol worshippers choose their sacrifices on their own, and end up burning their sons and daughters in fire, but God determines which sacrifices the people of Israel are to bring.[3] This is an expression of the conceptual principle that R. Yehuda Halevi stresses in various places in his Kuzari (see, for example, book II, 46): the only way to draw close to God is through the mitzvot, and not through independent means; the particular way by which one can draw close to God is an integral part of His service.

 

We see, then, that Avraham teaches Israel through the story of the Akeida in the sense of "the deeds of the fathers are an omen for the children," the fundamental principle that the choice of the sacrifice and the choice of the place of sacrifice are in the hands of God. These two points clearly distinguish between Israel and the nations of the world – a distinction whose practical significance will be revealed in Parashat Re'eh.

 

II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SEEING AND FEAR

 

We have seen that – with respect to God - the word re'iya is used in the sense of choosing. I wish now to note the relationship in the story of the Akeida between human seeing (re'iya) and fear (yir'a). The term "seeing" appears twice in the Akeida story in connection with Avraham. The first time is in v. 4, when Avraham sees the place:

 

On the third day Avraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

 

            The second time is in v. 13, when Avraham sees the sacrifice:

 

And Avraham lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Avraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in place of his son.

 

            These two acts of seeing parallel in their substance the two acts of choosing mentioned earlier, which are also formulated as acts of seeing (although there it is God who sees): the selection of the place and the selection of the sacrifice. We see, then, that while it is God who chooses the place and the sacrifice, He makes it possible for man to see – to reveal on his own the choice made by God.

 

            Fear is not directly attributed to Avraham in direct fashion, but rather in the context of God's knowledge, "for now I know that you are a God-fearing man." The juxtaposition of verses 12 and 13 – "for now I know that you are a God-fearing man… And Avraham lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold behind him a ram" – may teach us that there are times that fear leads to enhanced and more profound sight. Standing before God and fearing Him allows man to see the world in a truer light, and in our case, to see that the ram is the sacrifice to be brought in Yitzchak's stead. We find a similar connection in other places; for example, in Tehillim 128 we read:

 

Happy is one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways… Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord shall bless you out of Zion, and you shall see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. And you shall see your children's children, and peace be upon Israel.

 

            The fear of God makes it possible for man to see the good of Jerusalem and to see descendants – "your children's children."[4] Similarly, in Tehillim 34:12-13:

 

Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man that desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?

 

            Fear is what makes it possible to see good.

 

            The reverse is also true: seeing can also lead to fear. We find this model in connection with Mount Moriya in the story of David in the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi.[5] Like Avraham in his day, David also lifted up his eyes – "and saw the angel of the Lord standing between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem." And in the wake of this, "David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21:17), and in the continuation: "When David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshing-floor of Aravna the Yevusi, then he sacrificed there… But David could not go before it to inquire of God; for he was terrified because of the sword of the angel of the Lord" (ibid. vv. 28-30). That is to say, seeing the sword of the angel of the Lord causes David to become terrified of God.

 

            A similar situation – the seeing of God leading to fear – is found at the parting of the sea (Shemot 14:31):

 

And Israel saw the great hand that the Lord wrought upon Egypt, and the people feared the Lord, and believed in the Lord, and in his servant Moshe.

 

            In any event, we see that with respect to Mount Moriya the two sides of the connection between fear and seeing find expression in Avraham and in David. On the one hand, fear leads to more profound seeing; on the other hand, seeing the face of God (or the sword of the angel) leads to fear.

 

III.       THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE AKEIDA AS THE FIRST SACRIFICE ON MOUNT MORIYA

 

One of the basic questions that arise when we read about the Akeida concerns the relationship between the original command to Avraham and what actually happens at the end. The end of the story teaches us that God does not desire human sacrifice, and the Torah presents here, for the fist time, the sacrifice of an animal as a substitution for the sacrifice of a human being.[6] In light of this clear and unequivocal conclusion, the question must be asked: How are we to understand the enormous gap between the original command to offer Yitzchak as a sacrifice and the conclusion of the story?[7]

 

I wish to propose an answer connected to our understanding of the test being conducted specifically at Mount Moriya. The absolute command was meant to clarify that the first sacrifice offered at this place (on the first altar constructed there, according to the plain sense of Scripture)[8] must be at the level of human sacrifice. How so?

 

At the Akeida, twofold devotion was demanded of Avraham, for the command stands in absolute contradiction to both the Divine promise made to him, "for in Yitzchak shall your seed be called" (Bereishit 21:12), and to the moral world in which Avraham lived and believed in – "the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment" (ibid. 18:19). The command to sacrifice his son was meant to reveal Avraham's devotion, the likes of which did not previously exist in the world. Accordingly the command was formulated in absolute terms to teach that the noblest essence of a sacrifice is man's total readiness to give up his life (or that of his son) in order to fulfill the Divine command – a supreme level of both love and fear. The moment that Avraham reveals this devotion, the angel calls out to him, and Avraham offers the ram in Yitzchak's place.[9]

 

IV.       THE AKEIDA AND THE WORSHIP OF MOLEKH

 

The worship of Molekh took place in the kingdom of Yehuda during the days of Achaz, Menashe, and Yehoyakim. The Torah (Vayikra 18:21; 20:1-5) relates to the severity of such action and asserts that it is punishable by karet (excision). According to Yirmiyahu, this sin is the primary reason for the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (Yirmiyahu 19).[10]I Indeed, in certain senses this transgression includes elements of the three main sins that led to the destruction of the city and the Temple (Yoma 9b).

 

1.   Idolatry: The gemara in Sanhedrin 64a records a dispute over whether the worship of Molekh is real idolatry or a type of sorcery.

2.   Forbidden sexual relations: The prohibition of serving Molekh is included in the section dealing with prohibited sexual relations (Vayikra 18:21) because burning a child retroactively profanes the father's relationship with the mother.[11]

3.   Bloodshed: Chazal (Sanhedrin 64b) and the Rishonim disagree over whether the worshippers of Molekh actually burned the children, or perhaps they only passed them over fire or between two fires. The Ramban in his commentary to the Torah (Vayikra, ibid.) adduces strong proof that we are dealing here with actual burning.

 

What, then, is the difference between burning children in honor of Molekh and the command at the Akeida to offer Yitzchak as a burnt-offering? It stands to reason that there are several differences.

 

First of all, we must consider the way the Akeida incident concluded, which, as stated above, is clear: God has no desire for human sacrifices, and such sacrifices were never permitted by the Torah for any purpose whatsoever.

 

Second, at the Akeida, a command was issued by God, whereas the worshippers of Molekh did what they did of their own free will.

 

Third, there is a fundamental difference between the two actions with respect to the understanding that lies behind them. An idolatrous offering is based on the assumption that God is cruel and that in order to appease Him, one must pay the dearest price of all, one's own child. The Torah's understanding of sacrifices is altogether different; it relates to supreme intimacy with God, whether for the purpose of atonement for sin or for the purpose of praise and thanksgiving. According to the Torah, a sacrifice elevates the world to its source, connecting between the material and the spiritual. Thus, its objective is altogether different from that of an idolatrous offering: love, rather than fear; communion, rather than dread; unmediated intimacy, rather than alienation.

 

In this context, Chazal (Taanit 4a) have an interesting interpretation of the verse in Yirmiyahu 19:5:

 

And it is written: "Which I did not command, and I did not speak, and did not come into My heart" (Yirmiyahu 19:5). "Which I did not command" – this is the son of Mesha the king of Moav, as it is said: "And he took his firstborn son, who would reign after him, and he offered him as a burnt-offering" (II Melakhim 3:27). "And I did not speak" – this is Yiftach. "And did not come into My heart" – this is Yitzchak the son of Avraham.

 

            Rashi explains (ad loc.):

 

So that you not say that the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded Yiftach, Mesha, and Avraham. For I never commanded Mesha to burn his son in fire… "And it did not come into My heart" – this is Yitzchak the son of Avraham. That is to say, even though I commanded him, it never came into My heart that he should [actually] slaughter his son, but rather to test him…

 

            Chazal emphasize that from the very outset God had never intended for Avraham to slaughter Yitzchak (and it is therefore necessary to search for the reasons of the categorical formulation of the original command, as we did above).

 

V.        THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AKEIDA AND THE REVELATION OF THE PLACE IN THE TIME OF DAVID

 

The name given by Avraham to the place, Ad-onai-yir'eh – which, as stated, means "God will choose" – alludes to the expression, "the place which the Lord your God shall choose" mentioned throughout the book of Devarim. It indicates that the chosen place was still unknown, and that, despite the revelation at the Akeida, it remained hidden. In fact, from the time of the Akeida and on we do not find any explicit mention of Mount Moriya; it is revealed anew at the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi only after the census and the plague in the days of David. The unique qualities of the place, which were revealed to Avraham at the Akeida, become revealed again, in a clear and chosen matter, only in the days of David and Shlomo. This is how the Keli Yakar formulates the matter (ad loc.):

 

He therefore called the name of the place "Ad-onai-yir'eh," referring to the future, because the Holy One, blessed be He, did not reveal this holy place to any creature; even to Avraham, it is stated: "Upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of." And we do not find that He said anything to him, except for what Avraham felt when he saw a cloud hovering over the mountain. But nevertheless there is no mention whatsoever that this is the mountain upon which God yearned to rest, because God hid it… He therefore called it "Ad-onai-Yir'eh," similar to "God will choose (yir'eh) Himself the lamb." Thus, he said that the time will come when God will see and choose this place, and at that time it will be said for all generations: "This day in the mount where the Lord is seen." "This day" – and not before, because until the day that it was chosen, the Holy One, blessed be He, did not reveal it.

 

            The author of the Shem Mi-Shmuel adds (Parashat Re'eh, 5675, s.v. ve-hineh ketiv le-shikhno):

 

It seems that the finding corresponds to the seeking, and since nobody stirred himself in the matter except for him [David], it was therefore impossible that they would find the place… According to our approach, it was because they didn't seek that they did not find.

In truth, there is something very strange here. Surely the place of the Akeida is explicitly mentioned in the Torah, and there it is stated explicitly: "Ad-onai-yir'eh; as it is said to this day, 'In the mount where the Lord is seen.'" And Rashi explains: "The Lord will choose and select for Himself this place to make His Shekhina reside in it and for sacrifices to be offered there. On this mountain, the Holy One, blessed be He, shows Himself to His people." If so, this place was known to them. And it is difficult to say that they knew only the mountain but not the specific place. We are forced, then, to say that this was from God, that the place should only become revealed in accordance with the seeking. And therefore, even though it had been made explicit, they did not comprehend it.

An example of this is found in the holy Zohar [which states] that the time of the end is explicitly stated in the Torah, and in the future all will see that it is explicitly stated in the Torah, but now it is concealed, and nobody knows it. The same was true about Zion and Jerusalem.

 

            In other words, the unique essence of the place, which had become revealed in the days of Avraham, became hidden again so that its revelation would result from seeking the place – and this did not occur until the time of David (see below).

 

VI.       WHY WAS THE PLACE OF THE MIKDASH CONCEALED FROM THE TIME OF THE AKEIDA UNTIL THE DAYS OF DAVID?

 

The commentators suggest many answers to this question. Here I will present what appear to me to be the four main answers.

 

1. The Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim III, 45) writes with respect to Mount Moriya:

 

The fact that this place is not stated explicitly when mentioned in the Torah, and not designated, but only hinted at by means of the words, "Which the Lord will choose, etc.," is due, in my opinion, to three wise considerations. First, lest nations should hold fast to the place and fight for it with great violence, knowing as they do that this place is the final purpose of the Law on earth. Second, lest those who then owned the place ravage and devastate it to the limit of their power. Third, and it is the strongest, lest every tribe should demand that this place be within its allotted portion and should seek to conquer it, which would lead to conflict and sedition, such as happened with regard to the priesthood. Therefore the command was given that the chosen Temple should only be built after the elevation of a king, so that only one would be qualified to give demands and quarrels would cease.

 

   The first two reasons are connected to the nations of the world and are based on the same argument: Were the nations of the world to know about the place, they would try to prevent it from falling into Israel's hands,[12] whether through war or through its physical destruction.

 

   The third and main reason is connected to the people of Israel, and here the Rambam directs us to a baraita in Sanhedrin (20b):

 

Three mitzvot were given to Israel when they entered the Land of Israel: to appoint a king, to destroy the seed of Amalek, and to build the Mikdash.

 

            In the continuation, the baraita concludes that this order is indispensable; the appointment of a king precedes the destruction of Amalek, and the destruction of Amalek precedes the construction of the Mikdash. This is also the Rambam's ruling (Hilkhot Melakhim 1:1-2). According to what the Rambam writes in Moreh Nevukhim, the reason that the appointment of the king must precede the building of the Mikdash is the desire to prevent conflict and to instill the fundamental principle that the place belongs to all of Israel, and its conquest should not be a tribal matter.

 

            Owing to the fact that its purpose is to serve as the place for the resting of the Shekhina, Mount Moriya must be reached through a unified effort. For this reason, establishing the monarchy – one of whose functions is the prevention of conflict and the formation of a unified regime – precedes the building of the Mikdash. There is an essential connection between Jerusalem in general and the Mikdash in particular and the unity of Israel. The unity of the entire people of Israel, as emphasized by the Rambam, is a condition for reaching the place, and in order to reach the place through unity, the place had to be hidden.[13]

 

            The Rambam implies that the people of Israel did not know where the Mikdash would be built, even though it is possible to understand from Scripture that it would be built on the site of the Akeida. As Rabbenu Bachya says:

 

And therefore Scripture hid and concealed this place, and did not publicize it. Needless to say the [other] nations [did not know its location], but even Israel did not know it. For even though everyone knew the virtues of Mount Moriya, they did not know that this was the place that God would choose. (Commentary to Devarim 12:5)

 

            It is interesting that Radak sees the establishment of the monarchy as a condition for the building of the Mikdash in a slightly different manner:

 

"And the king and his men went." And in Divrei Ha-yamim (I Divrei Ha-yamim 11:4): "And David and all of Israel went." For all of Israel were now his men. Once he ruled as king over all of Israel, he went to Jerusalem to capture the fortress of Zion. For they had a tradition that Zion would be the beginning of the kingdom of Israel, and it would only be captured by him who ruled as king over all of Israel. And until now there was no established monarchy in Israel, because Shaul's kingdom did not stand. (Radak, II Shmuel 5:6)

 

            Radak relates to a different question: Why was Jerusalem not captured from the time of Yehoshua to the time of David? He answers that there was a tradition in Israel that this place would only be captured by a king who ruled over all of Israel. Whereas the Rambam emphasized the connection between the monarchy and unity as a condition for reaching the Mikdash on Mount Moriya, the Radak says that kingship over all of Israel is a condition for the very conquest of the city.

 

            The common denominator between them is that reaching Jerusalem or the Mikdash on Mount Moriya was conditional on monarchy and unity. This condition is connected to the understanding that these places are themselves places of kingship: Jerusalem is the capital of the kingdom of Israel, and the Mikdash is the site of God's kingship.[14] This connection allows us to link together the explanations of the Rambam and Radak, even though each one relates to a different place.

 

2. The Sifri on Parashat Re'eh suggests a different answer to our question. On the verse, "But to the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, there shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there you shall come" (Devarim 12:5), the Sifri states as follows (Sifri Devarim 62):

 

"But to the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes" – seek on the basis of a prophet. You might say that you should wait until a prophet tells you? Therefore the verse states: "There shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there you shall come:" seek and find, and afterwards a prophet will tell you. And similarly, you find regarding David. As it is said: "Remember to David's favor all his afflictions, how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the mighty God of Yaakov: 'Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house… I will not give sleep to my eyes… until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty one of Yaakov'" (Tehillim 132:1-5).

 

            The midrash tries to explain the unusual commandment to seek out the place. We do not find many mitzvot in the Torah that obligate seeking, but here, with respect to the place that God will choose, the Torah commands us to seek out God's dwelling place.[15] The location of Jerusalem and the Mikdash - which are defined as the place that God will choose to rest His name – are unknown to Israel. The place exists, but Israel does not know where it is, and it falls upon them to seek it out, to search for it and find it. The meaning of this demand – which was fulfilled in perfect manner by King David, as the Sifri attests based on Tehillim 132 – is that God desires to rest His Shekhina in that place on condition that the people of Israel want this closeness and are prepared to invest effort in searching for and finding it. The place itself gives expression to the greatest closeness between God and the people of Israel, and therefore, God tells us, as it were: "If you wish to be close to Me, seek out My place and find it."[16]

 

            A similar idea is found in Rashi (Bereishit 12:2, s.v. el ha-aretz):

 

He did not reveal to him at once which land it was in order that he should hold it in high esteem and in order to reward him for complying with each and every command. Similar is "Take your son – your only son – whom you love – even Yitzchak;" and "Upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of."

 

            In other words, the failure to provide the precise location of the place where Avraham was to bring his son Yitzchak was meant to endear the place in Avraham's eyes and give him reward for compliance with each element of the instructions.

 

            We have seen, then, two similar understandings according to which the Torah did not provide the precise location of the place (the place of the Akeida or the place that God will choose) in order to create a more meaningful connection to it: the Sifri emphasizes the obligation of human seeking, whereas Rashi notes the endearment of the place and the reward that it will provide – reward for each and every command.

 

3. Abravanel in his commentary to Devarim 12:4 writes:

 

There must be only one sanctified place just as there is only one God who dwells therein, and there must not be many places like the places of the [other] nations… And furthermore, the place must be chosen by God, and by way of a prophet, and not in accordance with the desire of the worshippers as they please. This is: "which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes."

 

            Abravanel emphasizes two points here: 1) The place that God will choose must be a single place, and not like the places of idol worship, which are many. 2) Since the place will be chosen by God, there is no need to specify its location. This explanation is, in a certain sense, the opposite of the Sifri's explanation. Whereas according to the Sifrei the concealment was meant to create yearning and seeking on the part of man based on the idea that man must be an active partner in revealing the Divine choice, Abravanel argues that the Torah refrained from specifying the place precisely because the place will be chosen exclusively by God, and man has no part whatsoever in its selection.

 

4.         R. Charlop (Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshua, chap. 32) suggests a fourth understanding:

 

Just like the place which God chose, the place of the Mikdash, is elevated in and of itself, so too all of Eretz Yisrael has the sanctity of the Holy of Holies, the place that had been concealed and where idols could not be worshipped… For this reason, the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Mikdash was not clarified until King David arrived, so that all of Eretz Yisrael could have the quality of the sanctity of Jerusalem and the site of the Mikdash. That is to say, the sanctity of Jerusalem should spread throughout all of Eretz Yisrael, as they said: "In the future Jerusalem will spread until Damascus" (see Yalkut Zekharya, 575), and that the entire land should draw from the sanctity of the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem. This is what they said about the verse, "The land upon which you lie, I shall give it to you and to your seed" (Bereishit 28:17): This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, folded all of Eretz Yisrael under him, alluding to him that it will be easy for his descendants to conquer (Chullin 91b). The conquest of Eretz Yisrael will have the sanctity of the chosen place. And all this precisely because the place had not yet been chosen and its sanctity had not yet been clarified, and therefore the uncertainty about each and every place in Eretz Yisrael; perhaps it is the chosen place, and this itself brought in of the sanctity of the place that was revealed only to God.

And the Holy One, blessed be He, promised His people Israel that when the time comes to choose the place and clarify its special sanctity, then if they only search and seek the place, they will truly find it, "there shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there shall you come" (Devarim 12:5). Even though the choice will be Israel's, this choice is God's choice, "the place that the Lord shall choose." For at that time there will be revealed the Divine unity of Israel with God, and the light of God's choice will permeate the choice of Israel, they being a single choice, as it were.

 

            According to R. Charlop, the concealment of the place of the Mikdash was meant to allow the revelation of Eretz Yisrael at the level of the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Mikdash. In this sense, the sanctity of all of Eretz Yisrael stems from the sanctity of the site of the Mikdash, and when this level will become revealed, the redemption will come.

 

SUMMARY

 

            In the two parts of this lecture, we have seen that the Akeida alludes to the future location of the Mikdash in various ways.

 

            I noted the similarities and the differences between the Akeida, on the one hand, and the revelation to Yaakov at Bet-El and the revelation to David in the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi, on the other, with respect to the revelation, the offerings, and the self-sacrifice evident in each of these events.

 

            I discussed the idea of God's choosing the offering and the place of sacrifice, and we saw that the altar of the Akeida – the first altar to be built on the mountain – is also the first expression found in the Torah of God's choice of the place.

 

            I examined the relationship between fearing and seeing, and we saw that the command to offer Yitzchak as a burnt-offering demands preparedness for absolute self-sacrifice.

 

            I continued with a comparison of the Akeida to the worship of Molekh, and tried to understand the difference between them.

 

            In conclusion, I tried to answer the question of why the place remained hidden from the time of the Akeida until the days of David. The general conclusion is that the matter was intentionally concealed, and this can be understood in a variety of ways: in order to prevent conflict between the tribes or destruction of the place by the nations of the world; desire to reach the place out of internal unity; reaching the place through one who is king over all of Israel; the need for Israel to search for and seek out the place; the exclusivity of the Divine choice; and the revelation of the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael at the level of the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Mikdash. All of these factors emphasize one aspect of the matter; they are not contradictory, but rather they complement each other. From all of these explanations, Jerusalem and the Mikdash stand out as the place of the unity of the people of Israel, as the place of kingship, and as a place that must be sought after.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] Sections 1-4 of this lecture already appeared as the second part of this lecture in my lectures on biblical Jerusalem, 5765, lecture 9. They appear here with slight modifications. Sections 5-6 are based on lecture 4 in that series, entitled: "Why isn't Jerusalem mentioned in the Torah by name?"

[2] I expanded on this use and on the proofs for it in my lecture: "Mount Moriya – Its Identification and Its Name" (lectures on biblical Jerusalem, 5765, lecture 8). I will cite here only one of the proofs brought by R. Kook – the reverse parallelism in Devarim 12:13-14: "Take heed to yourself that you offer not your burnt offerings in every place that you see (tir'eh), but only in the place which the Lord shall choose (yivchar) in one of your tribes; there you shall offer your burnt-offerings." 

[3] Later in the lecture I will relate to the diametric opposition between the Akeida and the burning of sons and daughters before Molekh.

[4] In his commentary to this psalm, R. Y. Shaviv (Yesod ha-Ma'aleh, [Jerusalem, 5764], pp. 137-144) notes the connection between fear and the blessing of children and grandchildren, and he shows how this blessing was fulfilled in Yosef, who saw great-grandchildren through Efrayim: "The children also of Makhir the son of Menashe were born on Yosef's knees" (Bereishit 50:23). Similarly, Iyov also feared God and saw children and children's children – four generations. The same idea emerges from Tehillim 103:17: "But the steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children."

[5] This story (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21) contains the root resh-alef-heh in various senses multiple times.

[6] There is a well-known disagreement among the Rishonim regarding the reasons for the sacrifices. The Ramban (in his commentary to Vayikra 1:9, a section of which was cited in the previous lecture) disagrees with the position of the Rambam, according to which the sacrifices were meant to refine the reality of idol worship. Ramban advocates the view that the limbs of the sacrificed animal come in place of the limbs of the person bringing the sacrifice. That is to say, God is "satisfied" with the offering of an animal sacrifice – but fundamentally there would be room for human sacrifice in the wake of sin. Also well-known is the comment of the Rashbam (Bereishit 22:1) that the story of the Akeida immediately follows the story of the covenant with Avimelekh because the Akeida was Avraham's punishment for what he gave up in this covenant.

[7] Chazal and the Rishonim suggest various resolutions of this contradiction, including diverse understandings of the essence of the trial and even the argument that the conclusion is foreshadowed already in the command to raise Yitzchak up as an offering, but not to actually sacrifice him.

[8] As may be recalled from previous lectures, the Rambam (Hilkhot Bet ha-Bechira 2:1-2) brings the rabbinic tradition (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 31) that Adam, Kayin and Hevel, and Noach all offered sacrifices on Mount Moriya.

[9] Of course, I do not claim to have encompassed the full meaning of the Akeida in this framework. I have related to only one aspect of the story, that which relates to the fact that it took place on Mount Moriya.

[10] See also II Melakhim 3:26, where great indignation is stirred up against Israel in the wake of the offering of the son of the king of Moav as a burnt-offering on the wall.

[11] Of course, this is not really a case of forbidden sexual relations, but it does involve a profanation and perversion of the sexual relationship.

[12] It should be remembered that the Rambam lived in the twelfth century, and that during his lifetime Jerusalem fell under two different rules: first the Crusaders, and later Muslims.

[13] The connections between Jerusalem and the Mikdash, on the one hand, and the unity of Israel, on the other, are very broad. Each one deserves a separate lecture. In lecture no. 4 in the series delivered in 5765 (see note 1), I noted some of the main proofs for this connection.

[14] I dealt with this assertion, which is supported by many proofs, in my lectures on biblical Jerusalem in 5765.

[15] The gemara (Rosh Ha-shana 30a) derives a similar obligation from the verse in Yirmiyahu (30:17): "'This is Zion, which no one seeks out' – this implies that it requires seeking."

Moreover, one of the names of Jerusalem is Derusha ("Sought out"): "And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and you shall be called, Derusha (Sought out), a city not forsaken." (Yeshayahu 62:12). As the Radak (ad loc.) explains: "Derusha – the opposite of what they used to call her: 'This is Zion, which no one seeks out.'" The Metzudat David, on the other hand, writes: "Derusha – God inquires of her welfare, and does not forsake it."

[16] I wish to expand upon the relationship between the obligation to seek out a place and its sanctity.

Regarding Mount Sinai, the Torah states: "When the horn sounds long, they shall come up to the mountain" (Shemot 19:13). That is to say, at the end of the revelation, the sanctity of the place will disappear. The same was true regarding the Mishkan: we do not find advanced selection with respect to any of the stations of the Mishkan. The sanctity of the site of the Mishkan at each of its stations depended on Divine revelation, and from the moment that the revelation ended and the people of Israel advanced to the next station, the sanctity of the site disappeared.

In contrast, the sanctity of Mount Moriya does not depend on revelation, but rather on God's selection of the place at the time of creation. This place, which God chose for Himself, is the place where the Mikdash was to be built. This assertion accords with the position of the Rambam and other Rishonim that the original sanctification of Jerusalem and the Mikdash was for its time and for the future. That is to say, the sanctity of the place continues even when the Mikdash is not actually standing upon it. This sharpens what we learned in the Sifri: The site of the Mikdash is not accidental; it was destined and selected for that purpose from the very beginning, but God did not reveal its location in order to allow the people of Israel to fully participate in seeking it out and finding it.