From Mt. Moriah to Mt. Sinai, by Rabbi Noach Goldstein

mount sinai torah

The story of Akedat Yitzchak is so intertwined with Rosh Hashana that it is impossible to seriously contemplate the day without thinking of Akedat Yitzchak. To briefly survey some of the connections: They have the same major themes,[1] one view in Chazal is that Akedat Yitzchak took place on Rosh Hashana(see Bereishit Rabbati 22:14), and most graphically, the Rambam rules at the very beginning of הלכות שופר that the שופר must come from the horn of a ram (see Raavad and Lechem Mishna ad loc.). However, I think there is another way in which the legacy of Akedat Yitzchak contributes to our עבודת ה’ that is not as readily noticed, but that we should certainly have in mind during this time.

In a short article in the Megadim journal,[2] R. Dr. Yonatan Grossman points out that there is a plethora of parallels between Akedat Yitzchak and שמות פרק כ”ד, where Hashem makes a covenant with Bnei Yisrael at Mount Sinai. A sample:[3]

  • They share the basic setting of התגלות השכינה on a holy mountain, where a מזבח is built, קרבנות are offered, and Hashem establishes a ברית.
  • The overriding importance of total obedience to ציווי ה’—Avraham’s willingness to offer Yitzchak and Bnei Yisrael’s repeated declaration of נעשה ונשמע—is foundational to both passages.
  • The root ע-ל-ה, which is obviously deeply significant, appears over and over again in both places (eight times at הר המוריה, nine times at Mount Sinai).
  • In each passage one group is left behind while two people continue to ascend the mountain (The שתי נערים Avraham and Yitzchak; the זקנים vs. Moshe and Yehoshua);
  • Both places share a number of key words and phrases.[4]

This theme is also highlighted in a number of midrashim, for example Bereishit Rabbah (56:1) quoted by Rashi (22:4) that Avraham was able to identify הר המוריה because a cloud covered the mountaintop, just like at mount Siani, and the midrashim cited by the Chizkuni (22:19) that Yitzchak did not return with Avraham from Akedat Yitzchak because he either entered גן עדן or left to study Torah, both of which parallel Moshe after ascending Mount Sinai.

The natural question this raises is what message does the Chumash want to get across by drawing such strong connections between the covenant at Mount Sinai and the ברית at הר המוריה. As is often the case, close connections also help highlight significant discrepancies. In our context, two jump out: 1) Avraham names the place of the Akedat Yitzchak, “ה’ יראה”—Hashem will see—but at Mount Sinai we are told about the זקנים, “ויראו את אלקי ישראל”—they saw Hashem; 2) The only קרבן that Avraham brings is an עולה, but at Mount Sinai we are told about the “נערי בני ישראל” (another עקידה connection) that “ויעלו עלת ויזבחו זבחי שלמים”—they offer שלמים in addition to the עולות.

The idea seems to be that the covenant at Mount Sinai takes the foundation of Akedat Yitzchak and builds on it. The core of the עקידה is יראת ה’ and unquestioned obedience—”עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלקים אתה”—and that remains the foundation of our relationship with Hashem—”כל אשר דבר ה’ נעשה ונשמע”. However, once כלל ישראל has Akedat Yitzchak and its pure expression of יראת ה’ firmly established in our spiritual legacy, we can progress to the next step in our relationship with Hashem, the יראה mixed with אהבה in a way that does not dilute the יראה, but fully complements it. The entire legacy of the Akedat Yitzchak is present at Mount Sinai, only now we are able to offer שלמים together with our עולות, and the זקנים can כביכול “see” Hashem and not only be seen by Him.

Avraham is uniquely described in Tanach as both “ירא אלקים” and as “אברהם אהבי” (Yeshayahu 41:8). As we hopefully try our fullest to heed the call of דרשו ה’ בהמצאו and capitalize on the opportunities the coming days of offer to restore and deepen our relationship with the Ribbono Shel Olam, Avraham is the ideal person to have at the front of our consciousness. On the one hand the dedication and awe shown at Akedat Yitzchak are the ultimate religious aspiration. On the other hand, as the covenant at Mount Sinai shows, it also reveals that there are many more steps on the journey.

 

Noach Goldstein is a fellow in the Wexner Kollel Elyon and Assistant Rabbi at the Jewish Center of Manhattan.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife Alexis and sons Yehoshua and Azi.

[1] The list of shared themes includes but is not limited to; יראת שמים, קבלת עול מלכות, מדת הרחמים, התגלות, זכירת הברית, etc.

[2] Megadim vol. 25, “”וירא את המקום מרחק” – עקדת יצחק כסיפור רקע לברית האגנות ולסיפורים נוספים”.

[3] Some of these examples are not from R. Dr. Grossman.

[4] Examples from שמות כ”ד include: “וישכם בבקר” (cf. Bereishit 22:3); “ויבן מזבח” (cf. 22:9), “לא שלח ידו” (cf. 22:12), שבו לנו בזה עד אשר נשוב אליכם (cf. 22:5), and “אש אכלת” (cf. 22:6).

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