Near the end of this week’s parsha we read of one of the most famous stories in the Torah- the akeidah. The story has fascinated readers of all types throughout the generations. The harsh philosophical questions that it raises are obvious to even the youngest of students.
In this shiur I would like to focus upon one passuk, which appears at the end of the story.
“And Avraham called that place Hashem will see; as it is said to this day on the mountain that Hashem is seen”
This passuk is very cryptic. What exactly did Avraham name the mountain and for what purpose.
There are two key words that appear in this passuk which I believe give us direction in understanding its meaning.
Firstly we should notice the use of the word HAMAKOM “the place”, this episode defines the meaning of the future use of the word MAKOM in the Torah. This mountain which is referred to as the MAKOM toward which Avraham walked (passuk 3), and is the MAKOM that he saw from a distance (passuk 4), and is the MAKOM where they arrived at (passuk 9) is now clearly defined and will be referred to by Yaakov Avenu as the MAKOM numerous times in the opening dream of parshat Vayetze. (see http://www.midreshetharova.org.il/onlinetorah/archive/breishit/vayetze5765.php for more on this).
The significance of this seems clear. Har Hamoria, which is later to become Har Habayit, is THE place. No other location on Earth could possibly equal its importance. No one can possibly ask the question “which place”; this mountain is the focal point of all of Avraham’s children forever. Later in Sefer Devarim we find the phrase “HAMAKOM that God will choose”. Despite the fact that Yerushalayim is not mentioned nor is Har Hamoria specified there is no doubt as to the location of this MAKOM.
The place was clearly chosen by Hashem Himself and He led Avraham directly to the spot. Chazal tell us that the actual site of the Akeidah took place on the exact location that Adam offered sacrifices, where Kayin and Hevel brought their disputed offerings, where Noach brought his korbanot after the flood and where generations later the mizbaech was to be erected. The Rambam states that because of the rich history of the site the position of the mizbaech is “extremely exact” and must be built directly on that spot.
The second word, or words, which are important, are YEREH and YERAEH. Avraham declares that this indeed is the place that Hashem has chosen, He has “shown” it to Avraham and He will continue to “watch” this place forever. For all of eternity, whenever an individual approaches this mountain to offer a korban they will remember this day that Hashem demanded the first korban (RADAK) . All people who turn to God asking that he accept their sacrifice will join Avraham and Yitzchack in their sacrifice (RASHI).
It is significant to note that the same verb is used when referring to our responsibilities on the three regalim (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot).
“VELO YARAU ET PANAI RAIKAM” We are warned from arriving at the mikdash on one of these holidays and entering empty handed. In a figurative sense we are not to “see” (YARAU) Him in the place in which he “sees” (YERAEH) without remembering and reenacting Avraham’s offering.
Chazal even go further than that and learn that the process is two way, we arrive in the mikdash to “see” Hashem and to “be see” by Him.
The entire focus of the parsha is on the sacrifice of Avraham and Yitzchak and therefore the sanctification of the spot for all generations.
Having established that, we need to realize that all of the important ideas above are based on the mizbeach. Akedat Yitzchak did not take place in the location of the Kodesh Kodoshim, it took place by the mizbeach. In the Mikdash there are two very different functions. On the one hand, the Mikdash serves as “Hashem’s house”. This requires a building with an Aaron, menorah, shulchan etc.. It is really Hashem’s own private area that we are allowed to enter on certain occasions that He defines and limits. This is clearly spelled out in parshat Terumah when we are given the mitzvah to “make Me a mikdash and I will dwell amongst you”.
The mizbeach, on the other hand, is where man approaches Hashem. It is where we initiate the connection by bringing a korban in order to create and/or enhance our relationship with Him.
Mitzvot concerning the construction of a mizbeach actually preceded the mikdash, or mishkan. We are told at the end of Yitro to make it out of earth and not to have any steps leading up to it. Isn’t it strange that we have theses details despite the fact that we haven’t even heard about the mishkan yet?
Historically, the two have not always come together. In the early days of the second Bet Hamikdash they reconstructed the mizbeach and for decades it was fully functioning despite the fact that the Heichal itself was still in ruins.
It is the mizbeach upon which I place my offering. My offering joins all of the great offerings of all previous generations and joins Yitzchack Avinu as Avraham looks on. It is the Akeida that sets the standard for the world of korbanot and gives us the right to initiate the connection with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.