Thursday, March 14, 2013

the hidden spirit of the akeidah

The Torah tells us that a korban olah of a cow must be shechted "lifnei Hashem," but then a few pesukim later tells us that sheep must be shechted "tzafona fifnei Hashem" (1:11) Why the addition of the extra word "tzafona?"  The Midrash writes:  

When Avraham did the akeidah of Yitzchak, Hashem prepared two sheep offering [one in place of Yitzchak, one in place of the ram actually offered], one for the morning, one for the afternoon.  Why did he do this?   So that when the Jewish  people offer the korban tamid and read this parsha of “tzafona lifnei Hashem” Hashem will remember akeidas Yitzchak.  “I testify by heaven and earth that whether goy or yisrael, whether man or woman, whether eved or maid, whoever reads this parsha of ‘tzafona lifnei Hashem,’ Hashem will remember akeidas Yitzchak…”
Why is it the word “tzafona” in particular that is a reminder of the akeidah?  Sefas Emes explains that in addition to “north,” the word “tzafon” also means hidden (there are a number of explanations as to how these two meanings are related, but they all strike me as speculative).  Akeidas Yitzchak didn’t happen once and then become past history – the power of mesirus nefesh of the akeidah lives on hidden inside each one of us.  When a person brings a korban he is in fact re-enacting in a small way the akeidas Yitzchak; he should feel that he is offering his entire self to Hashem but Hashem in his mercy chooses to accept a sheep as a substitute.  The memory of the akeidah lives on through korbanos because through the korbanos we demonstrate that we embody within that spirit of the akeidah. 


  1. What is the relevance/connection of a goy to this?

  2. I saw that expression in the Medrash on one of the Neviim, where someone asked how it was shayach that a woman would have ruach hakodesh, and the Medrash uses just those words, but there it makes sense. Those of us that have had unfortunate exposure to non-Jewish thinks will recognize the nusach from elsewhere (lehavdil elef havdalos pfui ptui), a letter (epistle) by a fellow previously known as Shaul, to some people call Galatians.

  3. chaim b.6:28 PM

    I was wondering the same thing about the mention of goyim and don't have an answer. After posting this I saw some other people discuss the midrash and have other peshatim, but none of them do any better justice to what is obviously meant to be a universal message. We know a giy can bring an olah, and we know the mikdash is beis tefilah l'kol ha'amim, but still...

  4. What I was referring to is in Shoftim 4:4 parsha 10 and goes like this:
    ודבורה אשה נביאה אֵשֶׁת לַפִּידוֹת הִיא שׁפְטָה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּעֵת הַהִיא - וכי מי טיבה של דבורה שהיא שפטה את ישראל ומתנבאת עליהם, הלא פנחס בן אלעזר עומד, מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ, בין גוי ובין ישראל בין איש ובין אשה, בין עבד ובין שפחה, הכל לפי מעשה שעושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו.
    Thanks to Google, I also found this nusach in the Yalkut in Breishis Remez 15,
    שוב חזר הקב"ה לרצות את משה א"ל כלום יש לפני משוא פנים בין ישראל בין גוי בין איש בין אשה בין עבד בין שפחה עשה מצוה שכרה בצדה שנאמר צדקתך כהררי אל

  5. The first one's also in the Yalkut in Shoftim פרק ד רמז מב, almost identical.
    ודבורה אשה נביאה מה טיבה של דבורה שנתנבאת על ישראל ושפטה אותם והלא פינחס בן אלעזר עומד מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין גוי בין ישראל בין איש בין אשה בין עבד בין שפחה הכל לפי מעשיו של אדם רוח הקדש שורה עליו.