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This week's Parasha-Page has been dedicated by Simmy Friedman in memory of his grandmother, Chaya bas Yaakov, for the "Shloshim" (30 days after her passing).

Parashat Vayera 5756


One place; 3 names

And Avraham prayed in that place saying, "May future generations serve you in this place"; therefore people now say, "This is the mountain upon which Avraham served Hashem".
(Bereishit 22:14)
R. Elazer asked: What does the verse mean when it says (Yeshayah 2:3), "Many nations will go and say, 'Let us go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the God of Yakov'"? Is He the God of Yakov and not the God of Avraham and Yitzchak?
The Gemara answers: At the time of the redemption [the Holy Temple] will not be as it was in the days of Avraham when it was called a "Har" [= mountain], as it says (Bereishit 22:14), "On the mountain Hashem will be seen". Nor will it be as it was in the days of Yitzchak when it was referred to as a "Sadeh" [= field], as it says (Bereishit 24:63), "And Yitzchak went out to pray in the field". Rather it shall be as it was in the days of Yakov, who called it a "Bayit" [= house], as it says (Bereishit 28:19), "And he called the name of the place, 'The house of Hashem'".
(Pesachim 88a)
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov each came, in succession, to the place where the Holy Temple was destined to be built. Each of them perceived this coveted place in a different light. To Avraham, it was a mountain; to Yitzchak, it was a field; and to Yakov it was a house. It is this last perception that will be shared by all upon the Final Redemption.

We know that in every statement of Chazal [= our Sages] many deep concepts have been encapsulated. What are they trying to teach us in the passage quoted above? What is the significance of the allusions to a "mountain", a "field" and a "house"? Let us see what insights we can glean from this passage, with the help of the great scholars of the ages.


(1) The cumulative effect of our forefather's prayers

On a simple level the passage can be explained as follows: The Beit Hamikdash [= Holy Temple] is the place where Hashem reveals His glory to us, here on Earth, in such a manner that all can appreciate His dominion [see Parasha Page Tetzave 5755, section II]. This is referred to as the dwelling of the Divine Presence in this world [Hashra'at HaShechina].

When each of the Avot [= Patriarchs], in turn, visited the site where the Beit Hamikdash was to be, they prayed there that Hashem should reveal His Presence to the world and let everyone see His glory. They asked Hashem to cause His Shechina to dwell in this world, and to establish the Beit Hamikdash on this spot. The prayers of each of the Avot had a cumulative effect, until they eventually succeeded in accomplishing their goal. Our Sages conveyed this thought to us through a series of metaphors, calling the place of the future Beit Hamikdash first a mountain, then a field, then a house.

When Avraham Avinu first approached the site, he saw a mountain. The place on which the Beit Hamikdash was to be built resembled a raw mountain, in that one could see no sign of its owner, or Creator, by looking at it.

By the time Yitzchak came along, however, Avraham's prayers had already had an effect. Yitzchak saw a field. A field shows signs of an owner; crops are growing in it in an organized manner. However, one does not see the owner himself. The owner does not live there.

When Yakov Avinu came and experienced a vision there he called the Temple Mount "the *House* of Hashem". He saw that the Bnai Yisroel would eventually merit that this place would resemble a house where the owner can constantly be seen. A Beit Hamikdash would be built and Hashem would reveal His glory there on a permanent basis. It is in this manner that the Temple will again be perceived upon our redemption.


(2) Maharsha: 3 names, 3 Temples.

We can add yet a deeper dimension to our understanding of this passage with the help of some ideas primarily culled from the commentary of the Maharsha (Pesachim 88a).

Although Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov each had a vision of the Beit Hamikdash, each of them saw a *different* one of the three Temples which were to be built in the course of Jewish history. Avraham Avinu saw the First Temple, Yitzchak saw the Second Temple, and Yakov saw the Third Temple, which is to be built in the time of the future redemption. The first one -- the one which Avraham Avinu saw -- lasted 400 years before it was destroyed. When it was destroyed, it was referred to as, "The *mountain* of Zion which is desolate" (Eicha 5:18). Avraham Avinu referred to this spot as a mountain, because he saw that after the destruction of the First Temple it was to remain a bare mountain.

Yitzchak saw the second Beit Hamikdash, which was also destined to be destroyed. About its destruction it is said "Zion will be plowed as a *field*" (Michah 3:12 -- see Rashi, Ta'anit 29a, s. v. Nechresha Ha'ir). This Beit Hamikdash, Yitzchak saw, would end up as a field.

Yakov Avinu, though, saw the Third Beit Hamikdash, which will never be destroyed. That one could be referred to as a house. It was destined to endure and to remain a house for all eternity. This is the "house" that those who return to Yerushalayim at the end of days will see.


(3) The Belzer Rebbe: Encampments of heavenly hosts (Machane=103)

An ingenious suggestion for an entirely different approach to our passage was offered by the Belzer Rebbe, Hagaon Rav Sar Shalom of Belz (Chidushei Maharash, Parashat Vaetchanan -- see also Sefer Ben Yehoyada, Pesachim 88a). Embellished with some additional insights of our own, it will round out our understanding of this teaching of the Sages.

In Nedarim 39b are told that the creation of the Beit Hamikdash preceded that of the entire world (see Ran ad loc.). Now, we know that there was no Beit Hamikdash on *earth* until 480 years after the exodus from Egypt. However, we find (Rashi Bereishit 28:17) that besides the earthly Beit Hamikdash, standing on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, there is a *heavenly* Beit Hamikdash which is situated opposite the earthly one. That one existed even before the Beit Hamikdash was built on earth. If so, perhaps we can suggest that the Beit Hamikdash which preceded the creation of the earth was the *heavenly* Beit Hamikdash.

Our Beit Hamikdash was built from stone and wood, but the heavenly one certainly could not be built from such materials. In the desert, the Bnei Yisrael [= Children of Israel] surrounded the Mishkan [= Tabernacle] on four sides with four different camps. Our Sages tell us that so too, in Heaven, Hashem surrounds Himself with four different camps of angels (see Midrash Shmot Rabba 2:9, quoted by Ramban, Bemidbar, end of 2:2). Perhaps it is these camps of angels that are referred to as the "heavenly Beit Hamikdash." The heavenly Temple, then, is made up of the four Machanot [= camps] of angels that are encamped around the Divine Presence. (See Bereishit 32:3, where a group of angels is referred to as a *Machaneh*. The encampments of the Jews which surrounded the Mishkan are also referred to as *Machaneh* -- Bemidbar 2:3).

However, as long as Hashem had not yet fully revealed His presence on earth, and there was no earthly Beit Hamikdash, the heavenly Beit Hamikdash was also incomplete. Before Avraham Avinu came along there were not four Machanot of angels surrounding the Shechina. There was a heavenly Temple (the one that preceded the creation of the world) but it consisted of only one wall surrounding the Shechina, made up of one camp of angels -- one Machaneh Elokim. As the Avot began to reveal the presence of Hashem on earth to its inhabitants, so too, the heavenly Beit Hamikdash became more and more complete.

According to the numerical system known as "Gematria," each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is assigned a numerical value. Alef = 1, Beit = 2, Yud = 10, etc. Our Sages have taught us that the numerical value of the Hebrew letters which comprise a word can yield insights into the deeper meaning of the word. "Machaneh," has a Gematria value of 103 (Mem = 40, Chet = 8, Nun = 50, He = 5).

Avraham Avinu came and prayed on the place where the Temple was to be, opposite the heavenly Temple, and with his prayers he added an additional wall to the heavenly Temple -- a second Machaneh of angels. Machaneh (103) plus Machaneh (another 103) equals 206. That is why Avraham called it a "Har" [= mountain], the Gematria of which is 205 (He = 5, Resh = 200. One of the rules of Gematria is that one may, at times, add 1 to the combined numerical value of a word's letters. This extra 1 corresponds to the word as a whole. Adding an extra 1 in such a manner is referred to as "Im Hakollel" [= with the total]. In such a manner, the word "Har" equals exactly 206, or 2x103.)

Yitzchak prayed there and added another Machaneh of angels to the Heavenly Beit Hamikdash, giving it a third "wall." Now that there were three Machanot, he referred to it as a "Sadeh" [= field] which has the Gematria of 309 (Sin = 300, Dalet = 4, He = 5), or three times Machaneh (103).

When Yakov prayed there he added a fourth wall, making it a "Bayit" [= house], which has the Gematria of four times Machaneh (103), or 412 (Beit = 2, Yud = 10, Taf = 400).

The Belzer Rebbe adds that the heavenly Beit Hamikdash did not yet have a ceiling -- just as the tabernacle in the desert had four walls but no ceiling, only a covering of cloth. Later on, before Moshe Rabbeinu was taken away from the Bnei Yisrael, he was shown all of Eretz Yisrael [= the Land of Israel], including the place of the Beit Hamikdash (Rashi, Devarim 3:25). At that time Moshe Rabbeinu also prayed for the completion of the heavenly Beit Hamikdash. He prayed using the word, "Va'etchanan [= and I pleaded]" (Devarim 3:23). He used this word because his prayer was to add a ceiling -- a fifth Machaneh of angels -- to the heavenly Beit Hamikdash. Five times Machaneh is 515, exactly the Gematria of "Va'etchanan" (Vav = 6, Alef = 1, Taf = 400, Chet = 8, Nun = 50, Nun = 50)!

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