“The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping on the mountains,
skipping on the hills.
Song of Solomon 2:8

In Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1–22:24), we read of the Akeidat Yitzhak, the Binding of Isaac. This may be the very heart of the Torah, as its echoes reverberate throughout Jewish Liturgy. It is recited The Portuguese Rabbi Abarbanel (1437-1508 CE) writes,

“(In the Binding of Isaac) lies the entire glory of Israel and their merit before their Father in Heaven. And that is why it pervades our prayers every day.”
R’ Isaac ben Yehudah Abarbanel, cited at Chabad.org [1]

The Akeidah (Binding) was HaShem’s plan from the beginning, as the Ram that took his place was created from at the twilight of the first Sabbath (Pesachim 54a). Rashi says,

והנה איל: מוכן היה לכך מששת ימי בראשית

“There was a ram: It was prepared for this since the six days of Creation.”
Rashi on Genesis 22:13, cited at Chabad.org [2]

What is the secret of this mysterious Ram, prepared from the foundation of the world for sacrifice? What does this teach us, and how does it relate to the plan of Redemption?

MIRACULOUS BIRTH

Although the Ram was from the beginning, according to the Midrash, Avram looked at the stars and saw that he and Sarai would not have a child. HaShem added the letter “Hei” to his name, thus transcending the natural order of Creation. For Avram there would be no son, but for Avraham there would be. The birth of Isaac was an incredible miracle, a feat so impossible that not even Sarah believed it when she overheard it. Genesis says,

“Sarai was barren. She had no child.”
Genesis 11:30

With this birth miracle, a pattern surfaces like the warp and woof of a concealed thread rising and weaving throughout a beautiful tapestry,

  • Sarai – Mother of Isaac- Genesis 11:30
  • Rivka – Mother of Jacob – Genesis 25:21
  • Rachel – Mother of Joseph – Genesis 29:31
  • Wife of Manoach – Mother of Samson- Judges 13:2
  • Hannah – Mother of Samuel – 1 Samuel 1:5
  • Shunnamite Woman – Mother of Jonah – 2 Kings 4:14

Yitzhak was conceived on Rosh HaShanah, and born on Passover (Rosh HaShanah 10b),

“Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.”
Genesis 21:2-3

The miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of Isaac caused skeptics and mockers to question his paternity. This also happened in the case of King David, whose mother Nitzevet, was accused of infidelity. This is a pattern for future redemption, as the prototypes of the Mashiach are born through what appear on the outside to be questionable circumstances. R. Levi said:

“On the day that Abraham weaned his son Isaac, he made a great banquet, and all the peoples of the world derided him, saying, ‘”Have you seen that old man and woman, who brought a foundling from the street, and now claim him as their son! And what is more, they make a great banquet to establish their claim!’ … they still scoffed, saying, ‘’Granted that Sarah could give birth at the age of ninety, could Abraham beget a child at the age of a hundred?’’ Immediately the lineaments of Isaac’s visage changed and became like Abraham’s, whereupon they all cried out, Abraham begat Isaac.”
Bava Metzia 87a, Soncino Press Edition

The Jewish Encyclopedia summarizes the miracles surrounding the birth of Yitzhak,

“At that hour the sick were restored to health, the blind recovered their sight, and the deaf their hearing; the brightness of the sun and of the moon was intensified (Tan., Gen. 37); a spirit of justice began to prevail in the world  . . . Notwithstanding, there were slanderers who maintained that Abraham and Sarah had picked up a foundling, or, according to another haggadah, had taken a son of Hagar and pretended that he was their son. To silence these slanderers Abraham prepared a great feast on the occasion of the weaning of Isaac, whereat, by a miracle, Sarah was enabled to nurse all the sucklings that had been brought by the women invited to the feast. As there was no longer any doubt as to Sarah’s maternity, the slanderers questioned Abraham’s paternity. Then God imprinted on the face of Isaac the features of Abraham, and the likeness between father and son became so great that one was often mistaken for the other.”
JewishEncyclopedia.com, Isaac [3]

THE ONLY SON

After leaving his ancestral homeland and emerging victorious from a world war, Avraham experienced the greatest test of all. The Torah says,

 קַח־נא אֶת־בִּנְךָ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַבְתָּ אֶת־יִצְחָק

“Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”
Genesis 22:2

This is the first time the word love appears in the Torah. The gematria of love is 13, linking to the 13 Middot, or Attributes of HaShem, who is one. The gematria of echad is also 13,

אהבה = אחד = 13

This sacrifice of the Ben Yachid, the Only Son, is echoed in perhaps the most famous Biblical verse of all time,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned. He who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”
John 3:16-17

RIDING THE DONKEY

donkey-1714138_1280Abraham wastes no time in accomplishing this task,

“Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him.”
Genesis 22:3

A pattern that continues to re-emerge in the cycle of Redemption is that of the donkey. In Hebrew, chamor (donkey) links to the word chomer, physicality or materialism. The donkey is mentioned in Genesis 49 as being connected to the Messiah known as “Shiloh“,

“Binding his foal to the vine, his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he has washed his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.”
Genesis 49:11

Samson fought the battles of HaShem with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15), and King David went to face Goliath of Gath with a donkey,

“Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by David his son to Saul.”
1 Samuel 16:20

Moshe’s return to Israel is connected with a donkey,

“Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt…”
Exodus 4:20

Interestingly, the Hebrew of Exodus 4 does not say “A donkey” but rather “THE donkey.” Rashi comments on this detail,

על החמר: חמור המיוחד, הוא החמור שחבש אברהם לעקידת יצחק והוא שעתיד מלך המשיח להגלות עליו, שנאמר (זכריה ט ט) עני ורוכב על חמור

On the donkey. The particular donkey. It is the donkey that Abraham saddled for the binding of Isaac, and it is the one that Messiah, the King, is destined to be revealed upon, as it says, “a humble man, riding on a donkey.”
Rashi to Exodus 4:20, Volume 2, Mesorah Publishing Ltd. pg. 37, cf. Pirkei de-Rebbi Eliezer 31

Rashi is citing Zechariah 9:9,

“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zechariah 9:9

The Talmud comments,

“R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. “It is written, ‘in its time’ [will the Messiah come], while it is also written, ‘I will hasten it!’ If they are worthy, I will hasten it. If not, he will come at the due time.” R. Alexandri said: “R. Joshua opposed two verses: “It is written, ‘And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven’ whilst elsewhere it is written, ‘Behold, your king comes unto you, lowly, and riding upon an donkey!’ If they are meritorious, he will come with the clouds of heaven. If not, lowly and riding upon an donkey.”
Sanhedrin 98a, Soncino Press Edition

Kol HaTor comments,

“A lowly person, riding on a donkey” – Mashiach ben Yosef is a lowly person ….“I was brought low, and he saved me.” His lowliness protects him from death.”
Kol HaTor 2.114, translated by R’ Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist

The Maharal of Prague, R’ Judah Loew ben Betzalel (1520 CE – 1609 CE), comments on this passage in connection with the donkey (chamor),

“It is reasonable to ask how this donkey is different from others – why does the Torah single this one out? A donkey is a donkey! The midrash points out that this donkey was created at twilight; it is the donkey that Moshe rode, and it is the one that will ultimately be ridden by the son of David. . . the rabbis wanted to juxtapose Avraham, Moshe and Mashiach, who had what no other creations had – a special exalted status. . . As for the Mashiach, the prophet says, “Behold my servant shall succeed, he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty” [Isaiah 52:13]. The midrash interprets: “exalted” – more than Avraham; ‘high’ – even more than Moshe; and ‘exceedingly lofty’ – more than the ministering angels [Tanchuma, Toldot 14]. Only these three are loftier than time, space and the universe…The donkey is the only non-kosher animal specified forth performance of a commandment – its firstborn must be redeemed. Chamor [donkey] gets its name from chomri [physical, material]…Kings reign over the material world, which is symbolically represented by the image of a man riding an animal. These three spiritual kings – Avraham, Moshe and Mashiach – who ascend to the highest levels of spirituality, symbolically ride the donkey, which represents the material world. A horse would, as a rule, be more fitting for a king, but these are spiritual kings…”
Maharal of Prague, Gur Arye, on Exodus and Leviticus, translated by Moshe David Kuhr, Gefen Publishers, pgs. 34-35 

The Gospels describe Yeshua as the Lamb of God, riding upon the donkey into Jerusalem,

“When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethsphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, ‘Go your way into the village that is opposite you. Immediately as you enter into it, you will find a young donkey tied, on which no one has sat. Untie him, and bring him. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Say, ‘The Lord needs him.’ and immediately he will send him back here.’ They went away, and found a young donkey tied at the door outside in the open street, and they untied him. Some of those who stood there asked them, ‘What are you doing, untying the young donkey?’ They said to them just as Yeshua had said, and they let them go. They brought the young donkey to Yeshua, and threw their garments on it, and Yeshua sat on it. Many spread their garments on the way, and others were cutting down branches from the trees, and spreading them on the road. Those who went in front, and those who followed, cried out, ‘Hoshia’na! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming in the name of the Lord! Hoshia’na in the highest!”
Mark 11:1-10

THE BINDING

In the account of the Binding, the text makes includes an unusual detail that Yitzhak carried the wood to the place of sacrifice,

“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together.”
Genesis 22:6

The Midrash Rabbah makes a stunning comment on this passage,

“And Abraham placed the wood of the burnt-offering on Isaac his son” (Gen 22:5). Like a man who carries his cross (tzaluv) on his shoulder.”
Genesis Rabbah 56:3, Soncino Press Edition

Isaac, the only son, is carrying the wood like a cross, and will be sacrificed “like a lamb.” While most illustrations and depictions portray Isaac as a young boy, the Rabbis teach that he was in his thirties. Exodus Rabbah says,

“Abraham begot Isaac (25:19), to teach you that he was like his father in all things: in beauty, wisdom, riches, and good deeds. You must know that Isaac was thirty-seven years old when his father was about to sacrifice him, yet though it says: And Abraham was old and advanced in years, he bound him like a lamb and he did not restrain him”
Exodus Rabbah 1:1, Soncino Press Edition

The phrase “like a lamb” links to Isaiah 53,

“He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth. Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn’t open his mouth.”
Isaiah 53:7

Isaac asked his father a heartbreaking question as they journeyed to the destination, and Avraham’s response is incredibly prophetic,

“Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, “My father?” He said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they both went together.”
Genesis 22:7-8

Genesis says that Isaac was laid upon the wood,

“They came to the place which God had told him. Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood.”
Genesis 22:9

The name of this place is called Mount Moriah. Rashi cites Onkelos explaining the link between “myrrh” and Moriah, the site of Yitzchak’s sacrifice,

ואונקלוס תרגמו על שם עבודת הקטורת שיש בו מור נרד ושאר בשמים

“Onkelos rendered it [“the land of service”] as alluding to the service of the incense, which contained myrrh [“mor” is phonetically similar to Moriah], spikenard, and other spices.”
Rashi on Genesis 22, cited at Chabad.org [4]

Rashi comments,

and he bound: his hands and his feet behind him. “The hands and the feet tied together is known as עִקֵידָה (Shab. 54a). And that is the meaning of עִקֻדִים, that their ankles were white; the place where they are bound was discernible…”
Rashi on Genesis 22, cited at Chabad.org [5]

Interestingly, Yeshua was bound in a similar fashion,

“Immediately in the morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, and bound Yeshua, and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate.”
Mark 15:1, cf. John 18:12,24, Matthew 27:2

Kol HaTor written by R’ Hillel Shklover connects Yitzhak to the Mashiach ben Yosef,

“Our forefather Isaac was in the line of the Mashiach ben Yosef from the time he was bound as a sacrifice.”
Kol HaTor 1.23, translated by R’ Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist

THE BLOOD OF REDEMPTION

R’ Ari Kahn says,

“They tell us that Isaac is a willing, enthusiastic participant in this excursion. He lies down on the altar, stretches back his neck, and then says to his father: “Father, the soul is willing, but the flesh is weak. Tie me down in order to restrain me, to prevent me from flinching upon seeing the blade.”
R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, Vayeira (Genesis 18-22), The Binding, Aish.com [6]

Yeshua of Nazareth said something incredibly similar prior to his death,

“Watch and pray, that you don’t enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:41

On Passover, the Israelites were to put the blood of a lamb on their door post, so that HaShem would see the blood and “pass over” the house and spare the Firstborn. The Mekhilta comments on the phrase, ‘I will see the blood,’ and links it to the Akeidah,

וראה את הדם רואה הוא דם עקדתו של יצחק שנאמר ויקרא אברהם שם המקום ההוא יי יראה וכתיב ובהשחית בעם ראה וגו’ מה ראה ראה דם עקדתו של יצחק שנאמר אלקים יראה לו השה לעולה
מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל ,מסכתא דפסחא

“And When He Sees the Blood. He sees the blood of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it is said: “And Abraham called the name of that place HaShem-Yireh” (the Lord will see), etc. (Gen. 22:14). And it is also written: “And He was about to destroy, the L-rd beheld and it repented him” (1 Chron 21:15). What did he behold? He beheld the blood of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it is said, “God will Himself see the lamb for a burnt-offering.” (Gen 22:8).”
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Tractate Pischa, Chapter 11, Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Jewish Publication Society, pg 61.

Pesikta Rabbati links the lamb to Isaac,

“Why was the Temple not  destroyed in the first month of the year, or in the second month or in the third, or in the fourth, why in the fifth? The fact is that God wanted to destroy the Temple in the first month, [Nisan, whose zodiacal sign is the Lamb]. But the merit of Isaac stood forward to plead: “Master of the universes, remember the sacrifice for which I let myself be tied up before You: I offered myself as a lamb for the sacrifice instead of the sacrificial lamb….”
Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 27/28, translated by William Braude, Yale University Press, pg. 547-548

R’ Ari Kahn makes an incredible point, showing the status of Kedusha (holiness) of Yitzhak,

“In the aftermath of the Akaida, Yitzchak actually achieved the status of Kodshim, an offering dedicated to the Temple.”
R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, Elkana and Chana, Aish.com [7]

Rashi comments on the Akeidah and the concept of atonement,

ומדרש אגדה ה’ יראה עקידה זו לסלוח לישראל בכל שנה ולהצילם מן הפורענות, כדי שיאמר היום הזה בכל הדורות הבאים בהר ה’ יראה, אפרו של יצחק צבור ועומד לכפרה

“The Midrash Aggadah (see Gen. Rabbah 56:9) explains: The Lord will see this binding to forgive Israel every year and to save them from retribution, in order that it will be said “on this day” in all future generations: “On the mountain of the Lord, Isaac’s ashes shall be seen, heaped up and standing for atonement.”
Rashi on Genesis 22:14, cited at Chabad.org [8]

The Targum speaks of the zechut, or merit, of the Akeidah,

“And Abraham prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, and said, ‘You are the L-rd who sees, and are not seen. I pray for mercy before You, O L-rd. It is wholly manifest and known before You that in my heart there was no division, in the time that You commanded me to offer Yitzchak my son, and to make him dust and ashes before You; but that forthwith I arose in the morning and performed Your word with joy, and I have fulfilled Your word. And now I pray for mercies before You, O L-rd G-d, that when the children of Yitzchak offer in the hour of need, the binding of Yitzchak their father You may remember on their behalf, and remit and forgive their sins, and deliver them out of all need. . . .”
Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 22 [9]

The Midrash says that the Binding of Yitzhak atones for everyone, Jew and non-Jew (!), slave and free,

“The Sages said: When Abraham, our father, bound Isaac his son, the Holy One, blessed be He, instituted the sacrifice of two he-lambs, one in the morning and one in the evening. Why did He do this? When Israel offer up the daily sacrifices on the altar…the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers the binding of Isaac. [Elijah says]: “I call heaven and earth to witness that whether a heathen or an Israelite, a man or a woman, a man-servant or a maidservant, reads this verse, viz. ‘Zafonah (northward) before the Lord’, the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers the binding of Isaac…”
Leviticus Rabbah 2:11, Soncino Press Edition

M. Avrum Ehrlich writes,

“It is striking that the rabbinic portrayal of Isaac parallels a number of aspects of the Christian understanding of Jesus. Like Jesus, Isaac was willing to give up his life (Lamentations Rabbah Proem 24). Like Jesus, Isaac was not forced to offer himself as a sacrifice but willingly gave Himself up to his father (Fragmentary Targum 22:10). . . the Akedah is described as atoning for all, Jew and non-Jew (Leviticus Rabbah 2:11). Perhaps most remarkably, Isaac is described as having died and having been resurrected (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 31).”
Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences and Culture, Vol. I, M. Avrum Ehrlich, pg. 128 [10]

The Targum says,

“And all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed through the righteousness of your son, because you have obeyed My word.”
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Genesis 22 [11]

In fact, the Talmud teaches that Yitzhak intercedes for Israel,

“In the future to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Abraham and Jacob, “Your children have sinned against Me.” [They] shall answer Him, “Sovereign of the Universe! Let them be wiped out for the sanctification of Your Name” . . . He shall retort, “There is no reason in old men, and no counsel in children!” Then shall he say to Isaac, “Your children have sinned against me.” But he (Isaac) shall answer Him, “Sovereign of the Universe! Are they my children and not Your children? When they gave precedence to “we will do” over “we will hearken” before You, You called them, “Israel my son, my firstborn” now they are my sons, not Your sons?! Moreover, how much have they sinned? How many are the years of man? Seventy. Subtract twenty, for which You do not punish, and there remain fifty. Subtract twenty-five which comprise the nights, and there remain twenty-five. Subtract twelve and a half of prayer, eating, and Nature’s calls, [and] there remain twelve and a half. If You will bear all, it is well; if not, half be upon me and half upon You. And should You say, they must all be upon me, lo! I offered myself up before You (as a sacrifice)! [Thereupon] they shall commence and say, “For you [i.e., Isaac] are our father. Then shall Isaac say to them, “Instead of praising me, praise the Holy One, blessed be He, and Isaac shall show them the Holy One, blessed be He, with their own eyes. Immediately they shall lift up their eyes on high and exclaim, “You, O Lord, are our father; our redeemer from everlasting is your name.”
Shabbat 89b, Soncino Press Edition

The Pesikta Rabbati speaks of the awesome task of the Mashiach, which echoes the binding of Yitzhak,

“In the month of Nisan, the Patriarchs will arise and say to the Messiah: ‘Ephraim, our true Messiah, you are greater than we are because you suffered for the iniquities of our children, and terrible ordeals befell you, such ordeals as did not befall earlier generations or later ones. For the sake of Israel, you became a laughingstock and a derision among the nations of the earth, and sat in darkness, in thick darkness, and your eyes saw no light. And your skin cleaved to your bones, and your body was as dry as a piece of wood. And your eyes grew dim from fasting, and ‘your strength was dried up like a potsherd – All of these afflictions on account of the iniquities of our children…the Holy One, Blessed be He, will lift the Messiah up to the heaven of heavens, and cloak him in something of the splendor of His own glory…”
Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 37, translated by William Braude, Yale University Press, pgs. 685-686

RESURRECTION

“So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. Abraham lived at Beersheba.”
Genesis 22:19

Where is Isaac? He seems to have disappeared from the text. The Torah only says that Avraham returned, and Yitzhak’s fate and whereabouts are unknown. Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer makes a stunning statement,

“Rabbi Yehudah says: As the knife touched Yitzchak’s throat, his soul left him, but when G-d’s Voice emerged from between the two keruvim, saying Do not harm the boy, do not do anything to him (Bereshis 22:12), his soul came back into his body. He was untied, and stood up, experiencing the revival of the dead. Immediately he realized that the dead will be revived in the time to come and he recited [the berachah]: “Blessed are You HaShem, who revives the dead.”
Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, Chapter 31, translated by Avraham Yaakov Finkel, Yeshivath Beth Moshe, pg 22

Yitzhak was resurrected?! Most who read the Midrash on this passage will be quick to note that Yitzhak was not sacrificed or killed. However, midrashim are figurative, not literal. The Book of Hebrews illustrates this point

“By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son; even he to whom it was said, In Isaac will your seed be called, concluding that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead.”
Hebrews 11:17-19

All of these events took place “on the third day.” As Genesis says,

“On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off.”
Genesis 22:4

This may sound strangely familiar. Yitzhak’s life forms a prophetic prototype of Yeshua of Nazareth. This is the meaning of ma’aseh avot siman l’banim, the actions of the fathers serve as a portent for the children.

His Birth was Prophesied
He was Born Miraculously
His Paternity was Questioned by Mockers
He was the Beloved “Only” Son of His Father
He was the Image of His Father
He Carried the Wood like a Cross to the Mountain
The Donkey Was With Him Going toward the Place of Sacrifice
He Was Bound
He Was in his 30’s
He Willing Participated and Obeyed His Father
His Sacrifice Atoned for the Sins of the World
He Offered his life on Mount Moriah
He was Laid upon the Wood
His Blood is Linked to Passover
His Sacrifice gives Merit to the Sacrifices of the Torah
As the Ram was Caught in Thorns, so was Yeshua’s Head Wrapped in Thorns
He Resurrected on the Third Day
He Intercedes for Israel

Seemingly, the only aspect of Yitzhak left to parallel Yeshua is a return from Gan Eden to meet his bride…

camels-1149803_1280

THE RETURN OF THE SON

According to Louis Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews,

“After the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Abraham returned to Beer-sheba, the scene of so many of his joys. Isaac was carried to Paradise by angels, and there he sojourned for three years.”
Legends of the Jews, Volume 1:V, Louis Ginzberg [12]

When he returned, the Torah says,

“Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he lived in the land of the South. Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the evening. He lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming. Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she fell from the camel.”
Genesis 24:62-64

Where is Be’er Lachai Roi? The name of the word literally means, “The well of the Living One who Sees me.” On a peshat level, this is the place where the Angel of HaShem appeared to Hagar. The Targum says,

“And Yitzhak ascended in coming from the well over which the Angel of Life (malak qayama, ” the Eternal Angel”) had appeared.”
Targum Onkelos on Genesis 24 [13]

 On a deeper level, this refers to the Garden of Eden. The Midrashim tell us that Yitzhak spent three years in Gan Eden, learning the Torah, and that when Rivka saw him, he was glorified, a different being. The Nuremberg Haggadah says,

“Isaac returned glorified from the Garden (of Eden) that God planted for our protection…when Rebecca rode this camel, she saw from a distance this glorified man.”
Nuremberg Haggadah, Folio 31 [14]

Rashi, R’ Shlomo Yitzhaki, comments,

ותרא את יצחק: ראתה אותו הדור ותוהא מפניו:

“And saw Isaac: She saw his majestic appearance, and she was astounded by him (Gen. Rabbah 60:14).”
Rashi on Genesis 24:64, cited at Chabad.org [15]

R’ Moshe Moshe Alshich comments,

“The face of Yitzhak, radiating some of his holiness, might have frightened Rivkah into falling off the camel. . . she asked, “Who is this man?” She indicated that this must be a remarkable person.”
R’ Moshe Alshich on Genesis 24:64, translated by R’ Eliyahu Munk, Volume 1, Lambda Publishers, pg. 160

R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz, known as the Holy Shelah, makes an astounding commentary,

“Isaac was the spiritual equivalent of Adam before his sin, since he was the first person who was both conceived and born by parents who had sanctified themselves. The removal of Abraham’s foreskin repaired the damage Adam had done by sinning and acquiring a קליפה, husk…This may well account for the fact that he was not allowed to leave the holy soil of eretz Yisrael (Genesis 27:2)…When Abraham was about to slaughter Isaac, the latter’s soul flew away to be replaced later by a holy spirit from the Celestial Regions. It follows then that Isaac’s life after the akeidah, was the life of a human being who had not originated from a drop of semen. We must view Isaac as someone re-born in consequence of that experience: a totally new creature. G’d had applied the strictest yardstick to him by letting him die, and subsequently infusing him with a new soul. He had also sanctified his body; from that time on Isaac’s body resembled that of Adam HaRishon, also not the product of a drop of semen. Now we understand why the ram which Abraham sacrificed in lieu of Isaac was not the product of natural procreation, i.e. through semen, but was created during the period of dusk on the six day of Creation as reported in Avot 5:6.”
Shney Luchot HaBrit, Vayera, Volume 1, translated by Eliyahu Munk, pg. 111

D. Thomas Lancaster writes,

“And Isaac came from the way of Beer-le-hai-roi…And Isaac went out…” From where did he go out? From Paradise. No wonder Rebekah lost her equilibrium as it says “and she fell from the camel” -for what she perceived was Isaac coming down from Paradise…” So much for the Jewish reading of the story. At least in the version of the Akeidah presented by this collection of parables, the Jewish reading sounds more Christian than the Christian reading of the story. How is that possible? Is it possible that the Torah is trying to suggest something to her people?
Akeidat Yeshua: Genesis 22 in Midrash, Beth Immanuel [16]

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Avraham then saw the special Ram created from the twilight of that first Shabbat,

“Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son.”
Genesis 22:13

According to the Midrash, this special Ram waited in the Garden of Eden until moments before the Akeidah. The following is a summary of the Midrash as retold by Mordicai Gerstein, in his wonderful book, The White Ram:

After spending ages in the Garden, God told the Ram, “It is time.” 

The Ram then bolted out of the Garden of Eden, but the evil serpent was near the gate. He said, “Do not leave this Garden! It will mean your death!” The Ram replied, “I must save the child!”

He ran as fast as he could, over hills, valleys and mountains. The tempter tried to slow him down, offering fresh water, or grass to graze, “Stop here, and rest for a moment.” The Ram replied, “I must save the child!”

The tempter appeared as a great threatening lion, and blocked the path of the Ram. The Ram leaped over the lion, and began running faster than ever, as he saw the mountain in the distance.

“I am here! I am here! Take me instead!” the Ram shouted.

The man atop the hill, knife in hand, could not hear the cries of the Ram, who continued to race up the mountain.

All of a sudden, the evil one trapped the Ram, wrapping a thornbush around his horns!

At that moment, the Voice of an Angel spoke from heaven, “Do not touch the boy.”

Avraham looked back, and saw the White Ram. Avraham freed the Ram, who leaped upon the Altar, and gave His life to save Yitzhak.

From one horn of this Ram came the shofar that was blown at Shavuot.

And its other horn will be used for the shofar of Redemption. 

As this special Ram had thorns wrapped around his head, so did Yeshua of Nazareth. Yeshua is the Ram from Gan Eden. It is he who is coming from above, skipping upon the hills, leaping upon the mountains. His voice calls out for all Israel to repent. The Binding of Yitzhak is the earthly shadow of the Mashiach ben Yosef, the Only Son, who died for the sins of Israel, and for the world.”
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 REFERENCES

  1. Rabbi Don Isaac Abarbanel cited at The Ultimate Test of Abraham, R’ Tzvi Freeman, Chabad.org
  2. Rashi on Genesis 22 cited at Chabad.org
  3. JewishEncyclopedia.com, Isaac
  4. Rashi on Genesis 22, cited at Chabad.org
  5. Rashi on Genesis 22, cited at Chabad.org
  6. R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, Vayeira, The Binding, Aish.com
  7. R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish, Elkana and Chana, Aish.com
  8. Rashi on Genesis 22, cited at Chabad.org
  9. Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 22
  10. Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences and Culture, Vol. I, M. Avrum Ehrlich, pg. 128
  11. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Genesis 22
  12. Legends of the Jews, Volume I:V, Louis Ginzberg
  13. Targum Onkelos on Genesis 24
  14. Nuremberg Haggadah, Folio 31
  15. Rashi on Genesis 24:64, cited at Chabad.org
  16. Akeidat Yeshua: Genesis 22 in Midrash, Beth Immanuel