Yael Chaya Miriam Gray

‘And He took him outside’ (Bereishis 15:5)

The Talmud tells us that Avram was an akar (akar = the masculine form of the Hebrew word for “barren,” unable to have children naturally).[1] Spiritually, too, children were not to be a part of Avram’s destiny: The astrologers of his homeland and time saw this in the constellations, as did Avram himself.[2] So he told G‑d that he’d read in the stars that he’d be childless.[3] That’s why at the the Covenant Between The Parts, the verse says, “And He [G-d] took him [Avram] outside.”[4]
Just what does it mean that G‑d “took Abraham outside”?

“The Midrash explains: “G-d said: ‘Leave your astrological calculations that you have seen in the constellations that you are not destined to have a son. It is Avram who will have no son, but Avraham will have a son. Similarly, it is Sarai who will not give birth, but Sarah will give birth. By My calling you by a [different] name [your] destiny will change’… G-d took Avram out of the terrestrial void and lifted him above the stars. This explains the use of the term הַבֶּט [which signifies looking] from above to below.” [5]

The phrase “He took him outside” assumes deep significance in light of the fact that the newly re-named Abraham and Sarah were the תקון (tikkun) for Adam and Eve.[6] In this context, “He [G-d] took him [Avram] outside” means G-d took Avram out of the prison of deterministic nature that was wrought by the sin of Adam and Chava.

“He took him outside” – Rabbi Yehoshua of Sikhnin in the name of Rabbi Levi: Did He take him outside the world, that the verse should say: “He took him outside [haḥutza]”? Rather, he showed him the streets of the heavens, just as it says: “While He had not yet made earth and the outer ranges [ḥutzot]” (Proverbs 8:26).
Rabbi Yehuda said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: He took him up above the dome of the heavens. That is what He said to him: “Look [habet] now to the heavens” – [the expression] habata refers only to looking from above to below. The Rabbis say: [God told him:] ‘You are a prophet, not an astrologer,’ as it is stated: “Now, restore the man’s wife, as he is a prophet” (Genesis 20:7). In the days of Jeremiah, Israel sought to adopt this mindset, but the Holy One blessed be He did not allow them to do so. That is what is written: “So said the Lord: Do not learn the way of the nations, and from the signs of the heavens do not fear…” (Jeremiah 10:2) – your forefather Abraham sought to adopt that mindset, but I did not allow him to do so.

Rabbi Levi said: [The saying goes:] While your sandal is on your foot, trample the thorns. Anyone who is situated below them [the stars] fears them, but you, who are situated above them, trample them.[7] Bereshit Rabbah 44, The Sefaria Midrash Rabbah, 2022.

We must first understand their sin. They ate from the Tree of Knowledge prematurely and without first eating from the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is Torah-consciousness/G-d-consciousness, which is transcendent and eternal and which is exemplified by the phrase “Ein Od Milvado.” If they had eaten first from the Tree of Life and only then ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they would have seen evil from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.

“Come and behold, When Abraham entered the cave [of the field of Machpelah] for the first time, he saw a light. The dust was removed from before him, revealing two graves. Adam rose from his grave in his rightful form, saw Abraham, and laughed. By that, Abraham knew that he was destined to be buried there.

“Abraham said to him [Adam], ‘If you please, is there an unroofed castle here?’ (Adam) answered him, ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, hid me here. From then until now, I have been hidden as a fish in a ditch. Since you came into the world, from now on, I and the world are maintained for your sake.’

Look at what is written, “And the field, and the cave that is in it, were made over (also: ‘raised’) to” (Gen. 23:20). The field was truly raised, which had not happened previously. Rabbi Abba said, “And he raised the field” means actual raising, as the field was raised and elevated by Abraham, for nothing was seen there until then. Now, all that was hidden was raised and elevated according to its worth, as it should be.”[8]

R. Shimon explains further (in the Zohar (on parashas Chayei Sarah): “[W]hen Abraham entered the cave of [the field of] Machpelah to bury Sarah, Adam and Eve arose, as they did not want to remain buried in there. They complained that they had suffered sufficient disgrace in the world beyond the grave where they were now having to face G–d, because they had been guilty of bringing sin into the world. Now they should suffer additional shame when constantly having to face a pair of humans so much better than they?

“Abraham replied that he was prepared to pray to G–d on Adam’s behalf so that he would cease to suffer embarrassment before G–d in the future and so that G–d would forgive Adam his sin. Immediately after that Abraham buried his wife Sarah. What is the meaning of the words ואחרי כן, “after that.” in 23,19? It means that Abraham proceeded to bury Sarah as soon as the dialogue between him and Adam was over.

“The Torah writes that אברהם קבר את שרה [Avraham kever et Sarah), instead of אברהם קבר לשרה [Avraham kever l’Sarah]. This means that he also reburied חוה [Chava/Eve]. After that the minds of Adam and Chava/Eve were put at rest. This is the meaning of אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ‘and these are the generations of heaven and earth’ (Bereishis 2:4), meaning that those created as a mixture of heaven and earth endure only by the grace of Abraham (the letters in the word בהבראם, behibaram). Adam and Eve, of course, were not descendants of man; they were created by G–d. Their continuity was assured through Abraham, their תולדות [toldot] are through אברהם [Avraham]. We have further proof from Bereishis 23:20 which describes the field of Machpelah “ויקם” as a hereditary possession for Abraham. Until that time, as is apparent, Adam and Eve had not had a firm hold on the world beyond the grave. The word ויקם is derived from קיום, a permanent existence. Thus far the Zohar. Abraham assured Adam’s permanent status in the hereafter; Sarah did the same for Eve.

“Adam returned to his place, but Eve did not. Then Abraham approached and put her with Adam, who received her for Abraham’s sake. This is the meaning of, ‘And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife.’ The particle אֶת [et] before ‘Sarah’ is meant to add Chava/Eve. Then (Adam and Eve) were properly settled in their places, as it is written, “These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created (Heb. בְּהִבָּרְאָם)” (Gen. 2:4).

“We learned that בְּהִבָּרְאָם [behibaram] HAS THE SAME LETTERS AS בְּאַבְרָהָם (lit. ‘by Abraham’). The generations of the heaven and the earth are Adam and Eve. It is not written ‘the heaven and the earth,’ but “the generations of the heaven and of the earth” who were not begotten by man. They lived for the sake of Abraham. How do we know that they existed for Abraham? Because it is written, “And the field, and the cave that is in it, were made over (also: ‘maintained’) to Abraham.” Until Abraham came, Adam and Eve did not exist in the world.”[9]

“although our Sages tell us that all generations subsequent to Adam contain some element of his [soul], the link to Adam is only via the patriarchs who serve as the go-between. The only people who are named אבות, patriarchs, are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same applies to the matriarchs. Only Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and Leah are considered אמהות, matriarchs. We are all considered their children seeing that they are the roots and we are the branches. This whole process commenced ultimately with Adam and Eve, both of whom together are called אדם.
“How does this process work? Abraham and Sarah are the תיקון (tikkun or reformation) of Adam and Eve, ensuring their continuity. Isaac and Rebeccah are the קלסתר פנים, the visible image of Abraham and Sarah, whereas the existence of the universe as we know it is due to Jacob.

“The ‘beauty’ of Jacob is described as equivalent to the ‘beauty’ of Adam (Baba Metzia 84a). Jacob is considered as attached to the tree of life because Adam had severed this attachment when he ate from the tree of knowledge.

“The patriarchs are important because it was they who started to repair the damage Adam had caused. Abraham may be considered as the root of the tree of knowledge, Isaac as its trunk, the area whence knowledge of good and evil is gained; Jacob represents the substance or content of “the tree of life in the midst of the garden,” seeing that all his children remained loyal to his teachings. G–d Himself said about the Jewish people (Jacob) ואתם הדבקים בה’ אלוקיכם חיים כלכם היום, “and you who have cleaved to the Lord your G–d are all alive this day” (Deut. 4,4). This means that all of Israel is basically in a position to live eternally [life of the soul after death of the body Ed.] [9]

[1] Talmud, Yevamot 64a.
[2] Talmud, Shabbat 156a.
[3] Bereishis 15:2. Talmud, Shabbat 156a.
[4] Bereishis 15:5.
[5] RASHI on Bereishis 15:5, Sefaria, Metsudah Publications (2009). Talmud, Shabbat 156a.
[6] Torah Shebikhtav, Chayei Sara, Torah Ohr 6Shenei Luchot HaBerit, by Rabbi Eliyahu Munk
[7] Id.
[8] Zohar, Chayyei Sarah, Sefaria Community Edition.
[9] Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Chayyei Sarah, Torah Ohr 6, R. Eliyahu Munk.

About the Author
Jewish Mystic.