About Belief And “Spiritual Seeing”

Three weeks before Rosh Hashna ראש השנה (The beginning of the new Hebrew year) I would like to unfold a story that we read every year in this time.

The core story deals with Avraham and is very famous all over the world: How one day God tries him, and asks him to take his son, his only son, the one he loves, Itzchak יִצְחָק and to go with him to the land of Moria מוריה (Jerusalem) and to bring him up as a sacrifice on one of the mountains that God will show himself.

וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת-חֲמֹרוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ, וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ

(‘בראשית כ”ב פסוק ג)

“And Avraham woke up in the morning, prepared his donkey, and took both his juveniles with him, and Itzchak יִצְחָק.

Genesis 22:3

So far we don’t know who those two juveniles are, we just know that they are accompanying Avraham and Itzchak יִצְחָק.

Avraham is chopping wood, preparing for the burnt offering and he walks towards the place that God told him. On the third day Avraham carries his eyes and sees the place from a distance.

Avraham tells his juveniles to sit with the donkey and he and the juvenile (Itzchak יִצְחָק) will go for more and shall bow, and then they shall return to them.

What The Midrash says…

The book of Genesis doesn’t mention the two youngster’s names, although the midrash in Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer ((chapter 30)) rises to the challenge and names them as Ishma-el, ישמעאל (the son that was born to Avraham from Egyptian slave, Hagar) and Eliezer (Avraham’s personal assistant).

The midrash offers the following: In the third day of walking Avraham carries his eyes and sees a cloud over the mountain.

He asks Itzchak if he sees anything, Itzchak says he sees a pillar of fire from heaven to earth.

Avraham understands that his son has to be sacrificed a complete burnt offering, so he asks Ishmael and Eliezer: “Do you see anything in one of those mountains?”

The two say: “No,” and Avraham considers them donkeys; since they aren’t capable of spiritual seeing they should sit with the donkey חֲמוֹר where they belong.

Please note: Hebrew is a root language: donkey חֲמוֹר comes from the root ח.מ.ר meaning material. Avraham challenges the two with seeing through the thought since mountain in Hebrew is הר , mountains are הרים and הרהורים are thoughts.

Avraham wants to test if they can go beyound their thoughts (appearing as mountains in the story) and see the heavenly fire descending and connecting the firmament with the earth.

Since they can’t, Avraham decides they will stay with the donkey which represents the separated material.

img: Creative Commons by spinedoc18 via Flickr

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About Eti Shani

Eti Shani was born in Israel and has been teaching Hebrew for more than 10 years with a special interest and experience in ancient Hebrew scriptures and culture. She's also the author of a series of books for novice and intermediate Hebrew learners.

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