Semantic insights 4 into the Torah – Bible Reading – Parashat vaY
In fact, the object name YiR’AH fear, is written exactly like YeRaEH – will be seen – and YiR’EH – will see. The entire triple function of the future Temple of Mount Moriah is contained and understandable through this semantic perspective – Awe of God, Observation and testing by God and the Vision of the Divine. A command was given “et Miqdashi tira’u” – You should have Awe of my Temple (Leviticus 19:30). The interplay of these two sides – Grace and Vision vs. Judgment and Awe are present within the names of the protagonists and their experiences.
In the last Parashah we found that Yishma’el was born to Abram when he was 86 years old. The number 86 is the Gematria of the Name ELoHIM (literally “The Powers” (of nature), as well as of HaTeBhA (pronounced HaTeVA), literally “The Nature” – he was the “natural son”. In this Parashah we learn of the supernatural birth of Yizhaq to Abraham (with the H’e of YHWH), and the Gematria of the name YiZHaQ (208) is a multiple of 26, where 26 is the Gematria of the Name of YHWH.
Like with the name of Yishma’el, YiZHaQ’s name is a god-given name, a very rare occasion in the Torah. So it is very likely that the name carries a profound meaning. As we shall see, the name YiZHaQ, which literally means “(he) will laugh”, contains the key for the solution to the dilemma that held back almost all commentators till now concerning the Aqedah (literally “The binding”) or the sacrifice of Yitzhaq.
Note: the meanings and implications of the name Yishma’el are explored extensively in our full commentary to Parashat vaYera, so we leave these out here.
In the third Parashah, Yitzhaq’s name is God-given and is associated with Abraham’s laughter (Gen. 17:19). Here in vaYera, this name is given by Abraham (21:4), and is ostensibly associated first with Sarah’s inner laughter (Gen. 18:12-15) and then with her declaration (21:6) – “God made a laugh/joke to me”. It is possible that it was Sarah’s inner laughter that gave the vitality (Hayut) to the barren Sarah, and that this led to laughter of joy in a public ceremony.
The theme of laughter then comes twice in the Parashah in different ways, in the form of Mezheq – making fun of, or playing games. Lot’s sons in law did not heed his warning to escape the town and thought he was making fun of them (19:14). Then later, at the Brit celebration (& circumcision) of Yitzhaq we find Sarah looking and seeing the 13 years old Yishma’el Mezheq, which was enough for her to demand his expulsion from the camp. Commentators give different interpretation to this term, Mezaheq, whether it was contempt to the baby, assertion of his firstborn inheritance right, or trying to kill the baby as if by accident. We can find some support for the latter, of Ishma’el destined to be a wild man (Pere Adam) who has fights with everyone (Gen 16:12), in the much later story of the encounter between the soldiers of David and of Sha’ul’s son (II Sam. 21:14) and the invitation for their bloody game playing – YeSaHaQu.
With this we come to the gory story of the Aqedah, the trial that God subjected Abraham – and Yizhaq – to; or possibly, the bloody game God played with them. As noted, most commentators shy away from this section that seems to cast shadows on both Abraham and his God. We offer a fairly novel explanation in the full commentary, and note that one of the few who dared to offer some reason for the Aqedah is David Hazoni in this issue of Israel Seen.
There are two additional semantic clues that we need note in the story of the Aqedah (Genesis chapter 22). This is a fearful encounter between Abraham and Yitzhaq on one hand, and God on the other. Now the name of this God appears in the chapter ten times – but in two different appellations, five times each. So the Aqedah signifies also a change within God himself!
The address to Abraham is by ELoHIM. After Abraham (who called upon God to make true judgment) admitted that he assumed that there are no awe of God – Yir’at Elohim – in the Land of the Philistins. God therefore set to test whether Abraham himself had Yir’at Elohim in him. The name ELoHIM signfies severe Judgment. However the intervention that cancels this fear is by MaL’AKh YHWH – the Angel of YHWH – which is of the side of Mercy (HeSeD), and that place, Mount Moriah, is set to be the place of the revelation of YHWH, not just of Elohim.
Here we come to the other key word. What was the precise command that Abraham received? Was it to slaughter his son? The issue is more intricate. The instruction was given more as a request than as a command: “Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, the one who would laugh, and go for your own sake (Lekh lekha) to the Land of Moriah (Fear and/or Instruction). And here comes the key word of the required action – “veha’alehu leOlah”. Rashi, (the most eminent traditional interpreter) wrote: “veha’alehu leOlah – (God) did not say to slaughter him, because The Holy One had no desire to slaughter him (Yitzhaq), but to raise him – LeHa’AaLeHU – upon the mountain to make him OLaH”. This last word, OLaH, has two distinct meanings. It is the name for “sacrifice”, which is apparently how Abraham and Yitzhaq and most readers since assume. But it also means literally “(feminine) Rising” (i.e. “Up She rises”). In the context of the Parashah, it is the rising of the Neshamah – the divine Soul – of Yitzhaq. The Midrashim tell that this is really what happened. That when the knife reached Yitzhaq’s throat, his Neshamah flew up (parhah Nishmato) and he had the vision of the angels on high, presumably the same kind of future vision to be impacted by the Temple. So what God Commanded Abraham was indeed enacted, even if not in the way that Abraham understood it. Nowadays, when people consider the restoration of the Temple, they are constrained by the assumption that it would be a place of slaughter, and do not see that it should become the place for the new Global and Divine Vision.
For full treatment of the Parashah by Yitzhaq Hayut-Man:
 There is much documentation of such rising up in vision. The Jewish traditions are covered well by Moshe Idel’s book: “Journeys on High”. Islam believes this about Muhammad. Early studies of Shamanic flight were made by Mircea Eliade, and are now in great vogue, scholarly and experientially.
 A similar thing happens in the Book of Jonah. The prophet was commanded to announce that in forty days Ninve would be turned over (nehepekhet). Jonah understood it in terms of physical destruction, an earthquake – and so apparently understood the king and all the people. When they repented, they made a moral and spiritual turn around and repented. So even though the city was not destroyed, as Jonah expected, it did turn around in the more important sense, that is, the moral sense. Here is a lesson about other prophecies of doom in the scriptures.