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Vayeira 5761-2000

“Mount Moriah: Building for the Future Through Love”

by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald

Last week’s parasha, parashat Lech L’cha, began with G-d saying to Avram, Gen 12:1: “Lech l’cha may’ar’tzeh’cha u’mee’mo’laditeh’cha u’me’bet a’vee’cha,” Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. In effect, G-d says to Avram: “Avram give up your past, give up Mesopotamia, give up Haran, give up your former lifestyle, and go to the land of Caanan, and build there anew.”

At the end of this week’s parasha, parashat Vayeira, the exact same words, “Lech l’cha,” are used by G-d to Abraham. G-d once again tests Abraham and says to him (Genesis 22:2): “Kach na et bin’cha, et y’chid’cha, a’sher a’hav’tah, et Yitzchak,” Take your son, your only one, whom you love–Isaac. “V’lech l’cha el eretz ha’moh’ree’yah,” and go to the land of Moriah, and bring him up there as an offering, upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you. Once again, G-d is telling Abraham, “Lech le’cha” — go sacrifice your son, in effect, give up your future!

The place where G-d tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is known as Mount Moriah. This, of course, is the place in Jerusalem where the Temple was eventually built, and over which the Israelis and Arabs are in great dispute today — the heart of Jerusalem.

According to the well-known legend, Mount Moriah was chosen to be the location of the holy Temple because of the actions of two brothers who inherited a field from their father on Mount Moriah. One brother was blessed with a wife and many children, the other brother was single. The single brother said to himself, “My brother has so many financial burdens and I have so very few. I will take some of my harvest and put it on my brother’s pile of bushels.” The other brother said to himself, “I am blessed with a wife and children, so much happiness. My brother has nothing but the harvest that he reaps from the fields. I’ll take some of my bushels and place them on his pile.” In the still of the night, each quietly transferred bushels from their own piles to their brother’s pile.

The next morning they looked at their own piles and saw that they were exactly even. They were thoroughly perplexed. The same thing happened on the second night, and on the third night. On the fourth night, in the middle of the night, they met each other while transferring the bushels and realized what had happened. They fell on each other’s shoulders and cried.
G-d looked down from heaven and said, “In this place will I build my Temple. The love and devotion shown here indicates that this is the appropriate place for the people of Israel to come to worship Me–through love and devotion.”

An alternate version of this story, a cynical version, has been circulating recently. The single brother says to himself, “My brother is blessed with children and I have nothing, I will go in the middle of the night and take some of his bushels and put them on my pile.” The married brother says, “He has no one to support, I have a whole family to care for. I will go, take some of his bushels and put them on my pile.” On the fourth night they meet and realize that each one has been stealing from the other. G-d looks down from Heaven and says: “This is the place where I will build the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.” This cynical adaption of a very beautiful story of love is only a story, but, in some sense, represents the essence of what is happening today.

Mount Moriah can never be truly ours, unless we, the Jewish people, unite in love for one another. Mount Moriah can never be ours unless that same love, which was expressed by the two brothers, is embodied in the feelings that Jewish people have for one another. Mount Moriah can never be ours unless the Knesset members, who in effect represent the Jewish people, respect one another and embrace one another.

It is very possible for the Jews to make every sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice, offering our children up in battle, on the Akeida of the Jewish State. But Mount Moriah will not be ours, unless that offering is given with a full and sincere heart, unless that offering not only represents dispatching our sons and daughters to do battle against the external enemy, but also to do battle with the internal enemy–the wanton hatred, the senseless hatred–that we Jews too often express to one another, within our families and within our communities.

As Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook once wrote: “If we have been destroyed, and with us the world has been destroyed as well–through wanton hatred, we can rebuild, and the world together with us can be rebuilt–through wanton love, through love without cause.”

May you be blessed.