THE THREE BEDOUINS
The life of Isaac is the most enigmatic of the 4 forefathers of Israel. Unlike Abraham, Yakov and Yosef, the Torah doesn’t give too many details of Isaac’s life; yet, he was worthy to receive and pass the Blessing God gave to Abraham our father. The first account of Isaac is his miraculous birth. There are many different interpretations for a single verse (the 70 faces of the Torah; Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15). But what do our sages teach of Isaac’s birth in the plain meaning?
Abraham and Sarah were very old and could not have children. At the 3rd day of Abraham’s circumcision God manifested himself to Abraham through three angels disguised as Bedouins, who came to him so that he could practice Hospitality (cf. Bava Metzia 86b; cf. Rashi). When he did this, he didn’t only practice hospitality with three guests, he also welcomed the Divine Presence (cf. Shevuot 35b).
Three things happened to Abraham with the coming of these three men:
- Sarah was told she will have a child
- Abraham was healed from his pain
- Abraham was told about Sodom.
Three men and three things; so, who were the three men?
- One came to give the good tidings to Sarah of Isaac’s birth, as it’s written: “Is anything too difficult for HaShem?” (Gn 18:14). This one is Michael (whose name means: Who is like God?). Sarah can be permuted into haShar (the Prince) – which is also a title for Michael (cf. Dan 10:21).
- A second one came to heal Abraham from the pain of circumcision, as it’s written: “Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised” (Gn 17:24) followed by: “as he sat… at the heat of the day”… “in the plains of Mamre” – Mamre derives from Memer: pain, sorrow (Gn 18:1), and then “when he saw them he run to meet them” (18:2). Before leaving, God gives words of comfort to Abraham through this man. This isRafael (whose name means: Healing of God).
- A third one came specifically to destroy Sodom as it’s written: “And the men turned from there and went toward Sodom” (Gn 18:22). This is Gavriel (whose name means: Might of God). He went accompanied by Michael (Bava Metzia 86b).
- The Zohar (vayeira I:99a) digs deeper into this and explains that – even though they were not born to this point – these three angels are the three spiritual [sefirotic] forces that the three Patriarchs represent: Abraham, Isaac and Yakov [or Mercy (Hesed), Judgment (Din) and Spiritual balance (Tiferet), the three columns of the Zeir Anpin; which is the Ladder that Yakov saw]– but this is too deep, and must be explained later, so let’s move on.
ABOUT THE AKEIDA
According to the mathematical calculations of Rashi, Isaac was 37 years old when God commanded Abraham to send him up to Moriah for a burnt offering (Gn 22:2). His logic is that Sarah was 90 years old when he was born (Gn 17:17), and she died immediately after the binding of Isaac (Gn 22:20), when she was 127 (Gn 23:1), therefore Isaac was 37 years old at that time. 37 seems to be a pretty adult number for someone who in the text is called a: Naar (a young man) (Gn 22:5). However this term does not necessarily denote the age of someone; it’s also used to refer submission. This is in fact something that always passes unnoticed; not only Abraham was willing to offer his beloved child in sacrifice to Sanctify the Name of God, but ALSO Isaac was willing to accept it; otherwise he could have fought his old dad and run away.
“And Abraham was 100 years old” (Gn 21:5).
In every aspect, this portion is a continuation of the previous one. As we have seen (in Noah and in Lekh Lekha), the numbers 100 and 37 are aspects of the Torah and the preparation for the Messianic era. 100 equals Yofi (beauty). The name of this week’s portion: ‘Vayeira’ [which is the first word in Gn 18:1] equals 37 (in the method called ‘Mispar Siduri’; the value of the letters by their order in the alphabet). By the same method, 37 is also the value of Yofi (beauty). And 37 is the Gematria of Hevel (vanity); in the secret of: “Hevel haYofi” (beauty is vanity; Prov 31:30).
יפי = 100
יפי = 37
וירא = 37
הבל = 37
So here we have our connection between 100 and 37. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And according to Rashi’s calculation, Isaac was 37 in the Akeida (the binding). 100 and 37 are both values of Beauty (Yofi). “The Beauty (100) is Vanity (37)”. The word ‘One hundred’ in the Hebrew is written ‘Meat’; the same value and letters with ‘Emet’ (Truth) – which is an aspect of the Torah; as explained in previous lectures. Emet (truth) + Yofi (beauty) = 541, the value of “Israel”.
מאת = אמת
אמת + יפי = ישראל = 541
Additionally, it is written: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go for yourself [veLekh Lekha] to the land of Moriah” (Gn 22:2). Once again it is used the expression ‘Lekh Lekha’ (go for yourself) which in Gematria equals: 100 (= Yofi). Abraham represents the aspect of being occupied with the Torah of Truth (emet); bringing people under the wings of the Divine Presence; for this reason Abraham receives in the Midrash the titles of ‘first convert’, ‘first Jew’ and ‘father of many nations’ (among other names).
The goal of the Torah is bringing the Messianic era into reality; in the secret of “Abraham was 100 [emet] years old when he beget Isaac his son”. Based on what we have already explained in our previous lectures; in the secret of “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain” – Sheker (=600) haKhen ve-Hevel (37) haYofi – Our sages explain: the Torah one learns in this world is vanity (Hevel – 37) compared to the Torah of Messiah; and before entering the 7th millennium of our World (which is the Messianic era) – from the 600th year of the 6th millennium – the fountains of Wisdom of the Torah from above and below must be opened for everyone, to prepare the earth for the Torah of Messiah which is sublime (cf. Zohar vayeira); this is hinted in the verse:
‘Noah was 600 years old when… all the fountains of the great abyss were opened’ (Gn 7:11).
Now Isaac is 37 (hevel – vanity) years old and he’s willing to offer up his life in sacrifice. When the name of Isaac (Yitzhak) is permuted from left to right (the side of justice) it becomes: “End of being alive” (Ketz Khai). And this is an aspect of ‘Messiah ben Yosef’ (cf. Kol haTor 1:23), who is killed in his battle against the Evil Inclination in order to prepare the world for the Messianic era (see Sukka 52a).
יצחק = קצ-חי = קץ חי
Rabbi Yeshayah Horovitz wrote:
“Messiah Ben Yosef will not come for his own sake, but he will come for the sake of Messiah ben David. For he will offer up his life and pour out his life to death (Is 53:12) and his blood will atone for the people with HaShem. In this manner it will be afterward that the kingdom of the house of David shall preside forever among the people of Israel” (Shnei Luhot haBrit pg. 299b).
ABOUT THE WOOD FOR SACRIFICE
“And he cut wood for a burnt-offering [etzei Olah]” (Gn 22:3).
The word for Cut [vaivaqa] literally refers to splitting into two [two beams] ( cf. Rashi).
“And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering ” (Gn 22:6).
The Midrash renders here:
“And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering in the manner of he who bears his own cross [Tzlovo] on his shoulder, and took in his hand the fire and the knife” (cf. Bereshit Rabbah 56:3).
ויקח אברהם את עצי עולה כזה שהוא טוען צלובו בכתפו ויקח בידו את האש ואת המאכלת
“And laid it upon his son… and they went both of them together” (22:6) – The one to bind and the other to be bound, the one to slaughter and the other to be slaughtered (cf. Bereshit Rabbah 56:4).
Both of them had to bear the cross of sacrificing their own personal will for the sake of Heaven. The expression: etzei Olah “the wood of the burnt-offering” can be interpreted also as ‘wood of ascending’ or ‘ascending trees’. The word Olah literally means: ‘to ascend’; ie. something that goes up. In the secret of (Jer 31:6): “let us go up [vena’Aleh – עלה] to Zion, to the Mount of HaShem” – which is Moriah. Abraham renamed Moriah with the name: HaShem-Yireh, previously Shem had called it Salem; and it finally was known with both names: Yireh-salem = Yerushalaim. It is no coincidence that Moriah was the place chosen by God. It’s the place of the Holy Temple, the place for sacrifices, and the first sacrifice performed there [consummated or not] was that of Isaac.
“On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the Place afar off” (Gn 22:4).
Resurrection is discernible on the third day (Tekhiah nikhar baYom haShlishi).
“On the Third day” (baYom haShlishi) = 713.
713 = “Resurrection is discernible” (Tekhiah nikhar).
ביום השלישי = 713
תחייה ניכר = 713
Therefore Yonah went out of the belly of Sheol at the third day (cf. Yonah 1:17, 2:2).
“He saw the Place” refers to the vision of Yakov when he received the vision of the Ladder, as it’s written: “he took of the stones of that Place” (Gn 28:11).
“From afar off” refers to a distant time. He saw Yakov and his spiritual level ‘from afar off’– in a far future; which also means not clearly; blurry as through a glass [aspaklaria – speculum] (cf. Zohar).
“we will bow down… and come back to you” (Gn 22:5).
It doesn’t say: I will come back, but we will come back. He was sure that one way or another God will not fail to his promise that through Isaac he will have a holy offspring. Even if God didn’t stop his hand in the sacrifice, Abraham knew Isaac would live at the end. Some commentaries even acknowledge [whether literally or metaphorically, or potentially] that Isaac actually died.
“Rav Yehuda said, ‘When the knife reached his throat, his soul ascended and Isaac died. When God made his voice heard from between the Keruvim saying, Do not raise a hand to the boy, his soul returned to his body; Isaac arose and stood on his feet. Isaac knew that this is how the dead would be resurrected in the future, and he said, Blessed are You who resurrects the dead” (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, Ch. 30 (4)).
Midrashim are not necessarily to be taken literally; Abraham didn’t reach the point in which he killed Isaac; but for all purposes and matters, especially in Isaac’s point of view, he died and revived. By no coincidence, the Haftara that is read together with the story of Isaac this week speaks of Elisha telling a woman that next year she will have a child (2Kings 4:16), and when the boy grew up, he died (2K 4:20) and Elisha revived him (cf. 2Kings 4: 32-35).
“The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt-offering?” (Gn 22:7).
Here Isaac is in the aspect of Messiah ben Yosef, as it’s written:
“he was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7).
‘To the Slaughter’ (laTevakh) = 7 times 7; ie. Mem-Tet (49); the abbreviated name of Messiah ben Yosef’s angelical force; in Kabbalah, 49 implies the refinement of all the Sefirot (Malkhut of Malkhut in the Omer count); preparing the way to receive the Divine Presence, preparing the way for the Messianic era.
לטבח = מ”ט = 49
‘As a Lamb’ (kaShe) = 325. 325 is the Gematria of “haNaar” (the Lad, or the young boy) name used by Abraham to refer Isaac in his binding; also the name used in Maasei Merkava to refer Enoch and MemTet (cf. Sefer Heikhalot 3:2); therefore, this name is an aspect of Messiah ben Yosef.
“kaShe laTevakh Yuval” (he was led as a lamb to the slaughter) = 442.
442 is two times the Gematria of Isaac (Yitzhak) + Love (Ahava).
כשה לטבח יובל = יצחק יצחק אהבה אהבה
I’d like to end this portion reading the consequence of Abraham and Isaac’s behavior in the Akeida:
“In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have listened to my voice” (Gn 22:18).
Blessed be HaShem forever, Amen.