Friday, October 29, 2004

Shabbat Shalom: Abraham's Return from the 'Akeida' by Rav Kook ZT"L

From RavKook.n3.net:

The 'Akeida', the 'Binding of Isaac', was over. Abraham passed this extraordinary test, and descended from the mountain. The Torah concludes its narrative with a description of Abraham's return to the world:

"Abraham returned to his young men, and together they got up and went to Beersheba. Abraham remained in Beersheba." [Gen 22:19]

Why does the Torah mention that Abraham joined up with the young men he had left behind with the donkey? And why the emphasis on returning to Beersheba?

Rav Kook explained that the powerful experience of the 'Akeida' could have caused Abraham to distance himself from the world and its ways. The supreme spiritual encounter on Mount Moriah might have led him to disengage from his struggle against idolatry and hatred. Yet each part of this verse demonstrates the extent of Abraham's return to the world after the 'Akeida'.

"Abraham returned to his young men." Abraham did not abandon his mission of influencing and inspiring the world. He returned to the young men he had left with the donkey. Before ascending the mountain, Abraham had told them to stay behind: they were not ready for this spiritual ascent. They needed to stay with the donkey ("chamor"), i.e., remain in their lowly materialistic ("chomri") state.

But now Abraham returned to them. He descended to their level, to help elevate and enlighten them.

"Together they rose up and went to Beersheba." With raised spirits, with pure and holy light, "they rose up". Together - united in purpose and plan of action - they proceeded to Beersheba.

What is Beersheba? The name Beersheba has two meanings: 'Well of Oath' and 'Well of Seven'. An oath is a pledge to take action. When we take an oath, our vision no longer remains merely an ideal or concept. It is translated into deed. The number seven similarly signifies completion of the natural world: seven days in a week, seven days of Creation. Beersheba represents Abraham's convictions, acted upon in a
practical manner, thus serving to complete the physical world.

"Abraham remained in Beersheba". Abraham stayed in Beersheba, continuing his activities there. His name Abraham - 'father of many nations' ("Av hamon goyim") - was particular relevant in Beersheba. In Beersheba he set up his 'eshel', an inn which brought wayfarers to recognize and "call in the name of God, the Eternal Lord". [Gen 21:33]

But hidden underneath Abraham's public works, universally directed towards all peoples, was a special seed of light: the unique dedication and spiritual elevation which Isaac attained, to be passed on to the congregation of Israel for an eternal blessing. [Olat Riya I:96-97]

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