The Fruit that Dwells

Perhaps Avraham’s greatest test, and possibly the last of his ten (see Avot 5:10), was the instruction to sacrifice his only son from Sarah, Yitzchack. We often focus on general themes of the story- like the sacrifice it took, the internal struggle he had, or the symbolism of the shofar afterwards. But one detail at the beginning may shed light on the type of character Avraham needed in order to meet the challenge.

 

The pasuk (22:4) explains that it was only on the third day of travelling that they finally saw Har HaMoriah, the mountaintop that would later because the Temple Mount, where he was to bind Yitzchack. But why did Hashem not show him the place -from afar- already on the first two days? Why was it only on the third day that he was availed the sight of the mountain? The Midrash Tanchuma, quoted by Rashi, explains that Avraham shouldn’t be seen as sacrificing his son out of a sudden, and momentary frenzy. If he saw it immediately, he would have been emotionally overwhelmed and done it out of that hysteria. Instead, Avraham had the opportunity to think about it; to mull it over; to really arrive at the conclusion that this was the right thing to do. 

 

While it’s true that Avaraham personified loving-kindness, “Chessed”, it was not the kind of love that sprang up out of excitement or fleeting desire. It was instead a conscious and deliberate appreciation for the value and dignity of every person. The Midrash tells us that Avraham Avinu is compared to the etrog that we take on Sukkot. Rabbi Yisocher Frand comments, that this might be explained through another statement by Chazal. The Gemara (Sukkah 35a) homiletically explains that the name for the etrog, “Pri Etz Hadar”, meaning “the fruit of a beautiful tree”, can also be translated as “the fruit that dwells”. Unlike other fruit, the etrog does not simply grow, ripen, and fall of the tree within a few months. It stays, long term, and takes its time.

 

While everyone displayed it in their own ways, enthusiasm and/or passion are essential components of religious life. That excitement, however, should not be limited to extraordinary circumstance, momentary highs, or times of celebration. The passion we strive for is one which is born out of an appreciation of value, of recognizing the importance of our mission in life. It requires delineation and forethought, but it produces long-lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. Avraham didn’t see the mountain right away because his approach was to be deliberating. It wasn’t the momentous occasion or extraordinary opportunity that excited him to go through with the Akeidah. It was the profound and ennobling service of Hashem.