Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Context Spanning Time and Place!

Woodcut by Gustave DorĂ© depicting
the burial of 
Sarah in the cave
The Bible spans 2500 years, but the first two of its fifty three sections quickly advance through 2000 of those years. A preamble to the story of Israel’s indigenous development, the transition is punctuated by two events that rarely caught the eye of commentators past and which unequivocally identifies Israel with its singular most important place. In contrast to place, back then the perception of time was very different than it is today. No one would have planned anything to the precision of a minute or hour, perhaps a day at best, but place or location was fixed and often associated with deeply spiritual events and meaning.

The Quran leads Muslims to believe an ambiguous contradiction to the much earlier Bible, that Abraham’s son Ishmael (by Hagar) was offered as his child sacrifice. However, the Bible makes it clear, Isaac was bound at the altar and the commentators back it up with ample grammatical, mystical and literary proofs. One such commentary tells that during the sacrificial event known as “Akeidat (the binding of) Yitzchak’ (Isaac), Isaac’s mother Sarah, who was in Kiryat Arba (Hebron) at the time, passed away from the ethereal shock of that moment. Elated Abraham returned home from the site of the binding at Mount Moriah only to buy the cave of Machpelah and bury his wife.

Isaac remained in the vicinity of Mount Moriah and was later betrothed to Rebecca who may have been three when Sarah passed. She eventually gave birth to twins Jacob and Esau who grew up mired in their bitter sibling rivalry. Rebecca is said to have perfectly resembled their grandmother Sarah. Like his father who married into the extended maternal family, Jacob was sent away to be betrothed. On his outward journey, at the site of Isaac’s binding on Mount Moriah Jacob dreamed of a stairway bridging earth to heaven. There he set a monument and made a covenant to return and build a house of God, provided he was blessed to return. Twenty years later, a successful Jacob returned together with his wives Leah, Rachel, their 12 children and significant entourage.

Jacob's Stairway leads to Jacob's Monument (matzevah)
Sarah passing aged 127, during her son's binding at Mount Moriah is not immediately apparent as providential. But, Rebecca passing, during Jacobs return, at the consecration of his new name ‘Israel’ and House of God (BeitEl) construction at the very same Mount Moriah site, invokes an undeniable providential parallel. Some 124 years separated these matriarchal death and burial events at Machpelah; Rebecca would have been 127 years old. These event couples seemed to transcend physical time, yet they established and permanently connected the Mount Moriah site of Akeidat Yitzchak and Jacob’s Beit El (House of God) with Abraham’s Machpelah. These events evoked a physical point known in Jewish liturgy as Tzion, the physical place God’s presence manifests in the world.

On Jacob’s way to Machpelah to bury his mother, the portal to the next world demanded Rachel's soul. While giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s 13th child she passed away before arriving at Machpelah. Rachel was buried between Mount Moriah (Jerusalem) and Hebron, outside Bethlehem along the straight line route of Jacob’s journey. On that route, it is said Rachel reminds the Jewish people her tears are the reason they merit the rebuilding of the Jerusalem’s third and final temple, at that very same place on Mount Moriah.

The ignorant are dumbfounded by the intricate logic of the Torah’s grammatical foundation; the chronology, letters, words and phrases that make up Israel’s Bible, instead they berate Israel’s indigenous record. Some honor its chronological construct, cunningly fitting their views to interpretations’ strictly codified rules. Still, some exploited the rules of time and place to further their self-serving ideals and successfully diverted the nations thinking. With the discovery of new archaeological evidence, history is being clarified and references to Salem, Luz, Beit El, Sukkot, Mount Moriah, City of David and Jerusalem become one and the same by time, place and spiritual context.

Finally we are being confronted by the stunning prospect that Jacob’s Beit El (House of God) is presently being excavated at the City of David. Through this lens we are, once again able to grapple our perceptions and misconceptions of Torah’s truth.