"On the third day and Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar." (Genesis, Bereshith, 22, 4)
We just read these words in the synagogue during the Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) services.
The text refers to the "binding of Isaac", or the last attempt at human sacrifice in recorded Jewish history. Thank God this horrible pagan practice of human sacrifice came to an end among our people. This is the point where Judaism turns away from such behavior and takes on a unique character. It becomes a religion of compassion and understanding. No longer would the Hebrew people sacrifice their children, as the pagans of the land did. Again and again we would be warned; not to follow the abominations of the people of the land.
The place referred to in the text is Mount Moria, or the place that Abraham thought he should bring his son Isaac to. It is also the place where God would command us to build his holy Temple (Beth HaMikdash); Mt. Moria of Jerusalem. (Today a mosque stands there, tragically).
As I was sitting in the synagogue hearing these words, written so many years ago, thoughts entered my mind.
On the third day…Abraham lifted up his eyes …and saw "The Place"…from afar.
How often in life are we unable to see "the Place", how often do we live our lives in blindness?
We do not see things on the first day, nor do we see things on the second day, but sometimes, if we are blessed, we can see them on the Third Day.
But what is the "Third Day"?
The third day follows the first two days, (of course). It follows two long periods of time when for some reason we simply could not see what lies "afar". We simply lacked the ability to see what lies ahead before us. Perhaps we were just afraid of the possibilities, so we choose to be short-sighted.
It was there all along, the Place. But we did not, could not see it. We were not ready. And then came the second day, and we grew a little in wisdom, we saw more than we had seen on the First Day, but still, there was so much we could not see. And then came the Third Day, the day of awakening, the day of vision, the day of spiritual enlightenment. And behold, we could see that which was afar.
We could see our destiny, we could see our goal; we could see the direction we should be taking.
And behold Abraham lifted up his eyes… and he could see. Sometimes we need to lift up our eyes, we need to raise our way of looking at things, and then we could see our Place, the place we have been striving to reach.
The Third Day symbolizes a certain stage in our personal growth. Many of us live our entire lives in the First Day, we are comfortable and all our basic needs are met. Sometimes a tragedy or near death experience will send us into the Second Day and our lives will be changed. And if we merit to be as Abraham we might reach the Third Day, the day of vision, the day of seeing that which lies far off in the distance.
The Jewish New Year is not a party time; it is not a time to lose ourselves but a time to find ourselves. It is a time to reflect, to meditate, to lift up our eyes and see the place from afar. We are not yet there but we can see it, it is still far off but we are on our way.
According to the Biblical commentators Abraham says to his son, "Can you see the mountain in the distance, in the clouds?" and Isaac says, "I Can", then Abraham asks the two servant boys if they can see the mountain, but they can not. So Abraham says, "Sit here with the donkey", and the rabbis instruct us that some humans are as limited as donkeys; they simply cannot see the "mountain" in the clouds.
May we open our eyes and see the great mountains ahead, the mountains that touch the clouds.