Thursday, November 5, 2009

G-d tested Avraham

And it came to pass after these things,
that G-d tested Avraham"

(Genesis 22:1)
Marcheshvan 18, 5770/November 5, 2009

How odd that Avraham remained silent when G-d commanded him to "take your son... Isaac... and bring him up there for a burnt offering." (Genesis 22:2) He was outspoken on behalf of the residents of Sodom when G-d disclosed to him His plans. He shared with G-d his doubts concerning his future generations, (before Yitzchak was born), yet now, when faced with his greatest challenge, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and ethically, he is silent.

Concerning this verse, Rashi, the classic Torah commentator, wrote: "Take your son: He [Abraham] said to Him,“ I have two sons.” He [G-d] said to him,“ Your only one.” He said to Him,“ This one is the only son of his mother, and that one is the only son of his mother.” He said to him,“ Whom you love.” He said to Him,“ I love them both.” He said to him,“ Yitzchak.”

Traditionally, this midrash is understood to teach us the great and impartial love Avraham felt for both his sons, and certainly this is the case. But there are other insights we can gain from Rashi. Perhaps Avraham was testing G-d. Perhaps Avraham wanted to hear from G-d who He intended by "take your son." Avraham had two sons, but he knew that only Yitzchak would inherit Avraham's spiritual legacy and destiny, as promised expressly by G-d.

It is reasonable to assume that if G-d had answered "Yishmael" instead of "Yitzchak," Avraham would have sensed the danger and immediately beseeched G-d's mercy and sense of justice, as he did in the case of Sodom. This is certainly how any loving father would react to G-d's impossible demand. Yet when Avraham heard from G-d that the intended offering was to be Yitzchak, he immediately was reassured, knowing that Yitzchak's well being had been promised by G-d, and in the completeness of his faith and trust in G-d, knowing that nothing, not even G-d's own seemingly contradictory command, could threaten that.

Understanding the exchange between G-d and Avraham in this light, we can safely say that this was the moment that Avraham passed the test. This is where Avraham expressed his complete trust in G-d. The actual performance of G-d's will, from setting out on his three day journey to the land of Moriah and seeing from afar the mountain that G-d chose, to grasping the knife to slaughter his son, all was done with relative ease, for Avraham already knew for a certainty in his heart and in his mind, that G-d's word, no matter how seemingly frightful and contradictory, would never contravene His promise to Avraham, that through Yitzchak Avraham's seed would be established.

Today, more and more of Avraham's descendants through Yitzchak, the children of Israel, are returning to the very spot where Yitzchak was bound, the spot of the Holy Temple.

Many onlookers ask the same questions that Avraham himself may have been asked: "Aren't you tempting fate? What will the descendants of Yishmael have to say about this? Isn't what you're doing careless and dangerous? What if something goes wrong? Are you certain this is what G-d intended?" As difficult as it may be for outsiders who, like the boys who accompanied Avraham and Yitzchak, but remained behind at the foot of the mountain, (ibid 22:5), the answer is resounding: "No, we are not afraid. We are not tempting fate, but acting according to G-d's word. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to see and to comprehend how G-d's promise will ultimately be fulfilled, but that never causes our trust in G-d's promise to be diminished. And yes, the children of Yishmael, brother of Yitzchak and son of Avraham, will, too, come to see the purpose and the truth and the love contained in G-d's promise to Avraham."

It is this unwavering faith in G-d which we have inherited from our father Avraham, that allows us to pursue G-d's promise with the same steady gaze and surety of grasp that Avraham exhibited when he went to Moriah. It is this trust in G-d that brings us back, time and time again, to His Holy Mountain.

Temple TalkTune in to this week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the war of the four kings versus the five, in which Avraham takes up the sword to redeem his brother-in-law Lot, and Melchitzedek, (otherwise known as Shem, the son of Noach), the high priest of the L-rd on High, in the city of Shalem, later know as Jerusalem, as the lineage of the high priest is passed on to Avraham, and last but certainly not least, G-d's final test for Avraham: the binding of Yitzchak on Mount Moriah.

From Rambam to RiotsThe Temple Mount Today: From Rambam to Riots: A Definitely Must Watch Video!
843 years ago the Rambam, (Maimonides) ascended the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where he offered up prayer to the Creator of the Universe. Today, the mere mention of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount causes the Moslems clerics to incite their followers to violence, igniting the Temple Mount.

Ascending the Temple Mount and showing reverence to to G-d in the place of His Holy Temple, is a positive commandment expressed in the Torah. Known in Hebrew as “mora haMikdash” this commandment is as applicable today as it was in the Rambam’s day.

No amount of violence and naysaying can sever the eternal bond between the nation of Israel and the place G-d chose for His Holy House. Two thousand years of unbroken tradition have preserved the precise knowledge of the location of the Holy Temple, and the adjacent areas permissible to enter.
The Rambam possessed this knowledge. So do we.

Only one way exists today to preserve and strengthen our bond to the place of the Holy Temple: to ascend and to pray, as the Rambam did. Doing so will not create turmoil, but tranquility; not war, but peace. Click here to view.

Today also features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "Building the Temple in our Day : Are we in any way, shape or form constrained by halacha (Jewish law) or midrash, (homiletical teachings), from proceeding at once with the building of the Holy Temple? Are we instructed to wait for the long-awaited moshiach? Will the third Holy Temple descend, unaided by man, from the heavens? Maimonides lists building the Holy Temple as a positive commandment, and the intention of Torah is clear: Positive commandments are meant to be performed by the nation of Israel, and are not contingent on the messiah's arrival, nor will G-d perform the commandments for us!" Click here to view.

Fall Tour 2009November is here! See and hear Rabbi Chaim Richman and Rena Richman as they make their way across Texas, New Mexico and Minnesota during the middle two weeks of November. They will be teaching Torah, relating the latest events taking place in Israel and Jerusalem, and on the Temple Mount. The Rabbi and Rena will be sharing news of the Temple Institute and of the steady progress toward the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. They will also be bringing recently completed vessels for the Holy Temple, for all to see. For details, please click here.

Parashat HashavuaThe Test: At the binding of Yitzchak, Avraham accepted entirely G-d’s will. Being willing to sacrifice one’s own life for the sanctification of G-d’s name, is a deep and undeniable character trait of the people of Israel. But the true “test” is not only being willing to die for our beliefs, but being willing to live for G-d, and walk in the ways of His Torah. Click here to view Rabbi Richman's short teaching on parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24).

Cutting CostsIn the spirit of global greening, and in order to cut back on postal expenses, beginning Sunday, November 8th, the Temple Institute will be sending to our online donors their monthly message from Rabbi Chaim Richman and their receipts by email, and no longer by surface mail. This will be in the form of a scanned attachment. If you still wish to receive your receipt by surface mail, you can designate so on our online donation form, or simply send us an email.
Your support is always welcomed and appreciated!

Blessings from the holy city of Jerusalem,
Yitzchak Reuven
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel 97500

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