Besiyata diShemaya - with the help of Heaven

The House on the Mountain

"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards evening" (Genesis 24:63).


The Field



The Field / Sunset, Afternoon / Life cycles, Old age, Death / Element: Fire / Color: Red, Gold / Mother Letter: Shin / Divine Name: ELOHIM / Attributes: The Left Column -- Understanding (Binah), Power, Discipline (Gevurah) Splendor (Hod) / Torah Study / Prayer of the Day: Afternoon (Minchah) / Festival: Giving of the Torah (Shavuot) / Overcoming sexual lust / Submission, Discipline

The divine command to Abraham to offer up Isaac was as much a test for the son as it was for the father. Despite Isaac's youth and strength, he allowed the aged Abraham to bind him on the altar. Isaac, embodiment of power and strength, thus became the prime exemplar of disciplined submission to the divine will.

Being bound on the altar was such a formative experience that Isaac revisited the site again and again, making it his place of meditation and prayer. For Abraham it had been a "mountain", but Isaac turned it into a field, a place of regular labor: cultivation of the soul. For the only way to attain the exalted spiritual peaks to which we aspire is through regular, disciplined work.

Isaac's mission was to turn Abraham's revolutionary spiritual teachings into an accessible pathway that people would pursue in a steady, disciplined way in order to bring the entire world to perfection. Isaac taught that justice and charity have to be applied in the most practical details of our lives, including the way we cultivate the land or make a living by other means. Through giving tithes and applying the other "laws of the land", the land itself is blessed, bringing forth its produce in abundance.

Just as Abraham's distinctive quality of expansive flowing kindness, is in Kabbalah associated with right-brain holistic visionary thinking, so Isaac's distinctive quality of restraint, control and discipline is associated with rational analytic thinking. Careful observation of the details of the natural world combined with acute inferential reasoning is characteristic of the Judaic way of viewing the surrounding world of nature, from the stars and planets in the heavens to the endless diversity of inanimate, vegetable, animal and human forms on Earth.

The purpose of such observation and study is to bring us to a deeper understanding of our role in the system, which is to offer up the letters and words of our prayers in order to draw divine blessings to ourselves and into the whole creation. This was Isaac's labor in the field. The spiritual pathway taught by Isaac leads man to his supreme destiny as the master of prayer, the words of whose blessings bring the entire holistic system of ecological and other cycles into balance and harmony.

Whereas Sarah bore Abraham only one son, Rebecca presented Isaac with twins -- Jacob and Esau, two very different types. While Jacob's preference was for "dwelling in tents" (see Part III of the Course), Esau followed after his father as the "man of the field". However, in the case of Esau -- the archetypal hunter -- Isaac's qualities of holy power and control expressed themselves in the form of brute force, cruelty and selfishness. These latter are indeed an integral feature of what might be seen as the darker side of nature, where the continued existence of so many creatures, including ourselves, is bound up with the systematic killing and consumption of other creatures. It is by cultivating Isaac's qualities of holy power and discipline that we are able to rectify this darker side of nature as it manifests itself in human selfishness and cruelty.

The spiritual work of "cultivating the field" through prayer and meditation has from Biblical times onwards been conducted in actual fields, meadows and other natural surroundings.

Links to individual segments of Part II