<I>Vayera</I> and Mt. Moriah

"What is Har HaMoriyah (Mount Moriah)? The mount from which hora'ah (teaching, instruction, Torah) went out to Israel." (Ta'anit 16a) Rashi explains: "This refers to the Lishkat HaGazit (the Temple's office of hewn stone) in which stood prophets."

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
"Take Isaac and go to the land of Moriah." (Breishit 22:2)

"What is Har HaMoriyah (Mount Moriah)? The mount from which hora'ah (teaching, instruction, Torah) went out to Israel." (Ta'anit 16a) Rashi explains: "This refers to the Lishkat HaGazit (the Temple's office of hewn stone) in which stood prophets."

The Torah Temima commentary asks why Rashi stresses "prophets" in the Lishkat HaGazit, when it would have sufficed to mention the Sanhedrin, the wise Rabbis of Israel who taught Torah and judged cases in the Lishkat HaGazit on Mt. Moriah. He answers that some prophecies could only have been given in that place.

However, according to the understanding of Rabbi Avraham Yizchak Kook, the Torah Temima's question is answered differently. The key word in every parsha is its opening (Lubavitcher Rebbe). The root of vayera is y-r-a, which is also the root of both r'iya (appearing, seeing) and yir'ah (fear). It was the fear of the Lord that Avraham had that paved the way for the appearance (r'iya) of the Divine Presence (Shechina) before him, at the opening of the parsha. This fear of Heaven, which is seen only by God (HaShem yir'eh, in 22:14), led Avraham to follow the Divine command to bring his son up to Mt. Moriah. This yir'ah caused a removal of all obstacles to bonding between man and God, allowing Avraham's r'iya (22:13) of the ram, which, as a sacrifice, led to even closer ties to God. And this r'iya-seeing of the Divine is what is repeated every time a Jew goes to the Temple Mount, Har HaMoriyah; in the days of the Temple, it even led to a level of national prophecy, the "r'iyat panim baMikdash" of the three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

At those times, all Jews, no matter what their level of religiosity, "came to see the Lord, and to be seen by Him." (Chagigah 2a, on Exodus 34:23, as explained by Rabbi Tzvi Tau in Emunat Iteinu, vol. 5, page 171). This national level of prophecy is what Rashi was referring to when he mentioned prophets and not Sanhedrin in reference to Mt. Moriah.

This prophecy on a national level is what Rabbi Kook referred to when he looked for his definition of Zionism. Not Theodor Herzl's idea of a national shelter, with " nothing to do with religion," but "Zionism based on the life of the nation with her Torah, on her land... to be a nation in the spirit of our Torah, in the spirit of our prophets, and in the spirit of our Lord; a nation that cannot be separated from Torah and her revival, according to Torah, as legacy to the congregation of Israel (on Devarim 33:4; Neshama La'Am Aleha, pages 127, 133).

Herzl's Zionism was quickly translated into 'Zionism destroys the Jewish religion,' causing public licentiousness and zilzul shel kodshei ha'uma, scorn for that which is holy to the Jewish people. And should you ask what is the harm in a little scorn, mockery and destruction of traditional values (including by way of Gay Pride parades), then the answer is, "An emptying of the spirit of the nation, despair, surrender (yi'ush), hate and anger, which will be the heritage passed on to future generations in Zion."

At the conclusion of this letter to the religious-Zionist Mizrachi movement, Rabbi Kook notes that the proper attitude toward secular Zionists and their post-Zionist descendants is, again, the way of the prophets:
Look to Elijah the prophet. Eliyahu HaNavi could have lived a peaceful life as a respected leader of the Sanhedrin in the land of Judea. Yet, he went to live in Israel, the land filled with unbelievers and scoffers, where he was ridiculed and attacked. Yet, his way was not to to give up on those who chased him into the desert, to call them 'Erev Rav, evil ones with whom I'll have no dealings.' This way leads only to tearing the nation apart. But with prophetic r'iya, Eliyahu saw the inner spirit of the people, for all the filth of an idolatrous culture hid the pure soul, the holy spirit of Israel.
This allowed Eliyahu to show honor to King Achav even as Eliyahu reproached him for his evils, and even despite Achav's threat to kill the prophet.
It is incumbent upon us to study and know this work of Torat HaShalom and Hashvayat HaMachloket ( peace and eradication of fractiousness), the work of Ketz-HaGeula, the work of Eliyahu, to return the hearts of fathers to children, the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 22:24).
Rabbi Kook wrote this letter (number 571 in Iggrot HaRa'aya) to the Mizrachi organization many years ago, but the wisdom is still appropriate. He titled another letter (no. 164) with the following quote from Isaiah (42:5): "He gives a soul to the nation on its land (notein neshama le'am aleha), and spirit to those who walk therein." Rabbi Kook explained: "In its period of fulfillment, there will appear, so that the nation will join in its spirit on its land, a soul in the nation (neshama la'am aleha); and, lightning-like, this soul will speed to every longing heart that yearns to see Israel in her beauty and delight."

Rabbi Kook wrote 1,500 years after the following statement was made in the Talmud (Ketuvot 111a) concerning the Akeida ( on Genesis 22,5 ), as light to Israel and thence to a dark world: "Even a Canaanite maidservant in the land of Israel is ensured that she will enter the Afterlife, Olam HaBa, as it says: 'notein neshama la'am aleha.'" The Ben Ish Chai comments on Har HaMoriya, the mountain of hora'ah (Ta'anit 16a, the Gemara with which this article opened): "This hora'ah, by inverting the letters, is nothing but the light of Torah (or [light] and the letter hei twice - the light of the Ten Commandments).

In the words of Rabbi Tau, paraphrasing the great Ba'al Ha'Orot, may we all merit "this light that hides within the soul of Israel, so as to light up the darkness and bring the ketz-HaGeula."

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