Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
Cf: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. (12,1)
Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land... upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (22, 2)
R. Levi bar Hama said: The Holy One blessed be He said to him: In both the first and the last trial I try you with "Get thee out": "Get thee out from thy country" and "Get thee into the land of Moriah." (Tanhuma Yashan 4)
Modern scholars have proved that the Scripture uses key words and phrases in order to underline the links between the different stories in the Bible or parts of the same story. But our Sages went much further than modern scholarship. They emphasized the identity of expressions in order to connect the incidents concerned and the lessons to be learned from them. Our Sages wove these threads even between precepts and facts and even between one precept and another.
Explain the connection between the two extracts which our Sages wished to emphasize.
The first test of "Lekh Lekha" - the opening words of the parasha- promised a reward of a glorious future: becoming a great nation and a source of blessing for all mankind. The last quoted "Lekh Lekha" (22, 2), the test of the Akeida, marked the seeming end of any future for Abraham and a contradiction to his life work. On a personal level, he would be losing the son who was destined to be his spiritual heir and on a global level, he would be offering a human sacrifice which was against all the moral values he had had taught. The last test of "Lekh Lekha" brings us full circle to the first test and ultimately brings the fulfillment of the rewards of the first test.
What other linguistic evidences do you find linking our passage with Chapter 22?
In the first "Lekh Lekha" God does not specify the precise destination that Abraham would reach. He is told to go "to the land that I will show you." In the last "Lekh Lekha" God refers to "one of the mountains that I will show you." In each case Abraham marches toward an unclear destination thus intensifying the anxiety to which he is being subjected.
Some commentators query: What does the word "yayakom" (he arose) in 22, 3 add after the text already states "vayashkem" (he arose early)? Cf. a similar insertion in Gen. 43, 15: "Then men took of the gift and the double money they took in their hand and Benjamin too and they arose ("vayakumu") and went down from Egypt" in contrast to "Joseph's brothers ten went down to buy corn from Egypt." 42, 3
In Gen. 22, 3 and 43, 15 we are dealing with situations wherein tension and apprehension exist. In 22, 3 Abraham must begin the fateful journey to offer up his son. In 43, 5 Joseph's brothers set out to return to Egypt with Benjamin and the double money, to acquire food, win the release of Shimon and to return Benjamin safely to their father in Canaan. In these instances the words "vayakom" and "vayakumu" denote an extra surge of strength needed to overcome the fear over what awaited them at the end of the journey. In 42, 3 Joseph's brothers had no inkling of any impediments awaiting them. They didn't require any extra surge ("vayakumu") of energy. They simply marched off innocently.
Can you explain why the two revelations (of chapters 12 and 22) do not open with the words "He (the Lord) appeared to him" as in 12, 7; 17, 1 and 18, 1?
In chapters 12 and 22 we are dealing with Abraham being tested. God wanted Abraham to be at ease in making a free choice of either complying or not complying with God's commands to him. If the text would have stated "He (the Lord) appeared to him", God's immanence would have overwhelmed Abraham making it impossible for him to make a full free choice.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem