By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Discover the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
The Donkey of Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabeinu and Mashiach
Nachshon’s painting here makes a comparison between the Donkey of Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabeinu and Mashiach. The donkey, in Hebrew “hamor,” is a symbol of the “homer”, I.e the “material world” which the donkey was meant to carry. Indeed, the Exodus story which this parsha begins, is deeply connected with this symbol and the intricacy involved with it. Close to the beginning of the Exodus story we see a description of the labor of the Israelites as being involved with mortar – “homer” – and bricks for building Egyptian storehouses. A few verses later we see that Moshe Rabeinu, then a child, is placed in a basket covered with clay – “heimar” – to float upon the Nile. Then, towards the end of this parsha we see that Moshe Rabeinu makes his family ride on a donkey – “hamor.” In the plague of frogs in Egypt we are told that the dead, and stinking, frogs were gathered in piles – “hamarim hamarim.” At the exodus itself in parshat Bo we see Hashem’s command to sanctify the firstborn of the donkey – “hamor” – which must be redeemed for a lamb to be offerred on the altar. Our Sages say that the reason the donkey received this special sanctification, unparalleled by any other impure animal, is due to the fact that the donkeys were instrumental in the Exodus in carrying the material wealth – “homer” – of the Egyptians which were given to the Israelites , thereby fulfilling the Divine promise to Avraham, which foresaw the redemption from Egypt [through Moshe Rabeinu], that his offspring “will leave [bondage] with great wealth.” Speaking of Avraham, we also see , as is also depicted in this painting, that Avraham himself straddled his donkey when taking Yitzhak his son to be sacrificed in the Akeida story. Yitzhak, according to our Sages, already represents the offspring of Avraham about whom it was said by Hashem that they will be in bondage and then “leave with great wealth.” Our Sages intensify this idea so much to the extent that they even count the 400 years of bondage told to Avraham to begin from the birth of Yitzhak. Therefore, in the Akeida, the sacrificial “binding” of Yitzhak may also be seen as a symbol of the “bondage/binding” [as slaves] of Israel and their sacrifice in Egypt. But yet Yitzhak is saved and also Israel in Egypt, and also in all the “bondages”/exiles Israel have survived throughout history till the final redemption of Mashiach – the third painting here. Mashiach, which also the Zohar coins as “Moshe-Mashiach,” pairing the first redeemer with the last redeemer, is here seen with a donkey riding on a dollar bill, yet again symbolizing the place of the “material world” in the progression of redemption. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, who famously used the dollar bill to give tzedaka and sanctify Hashem’s Name world-over, is seen riding on the donkey, as he made great strides to hasten the redemption.
What then, in a nutshell, is the place of the “material world” in the redemption? Going back to our analysis of the verb root h.m.r in the story of the First Redemption we may decipher a clue into this matter. The material world can either be in the service of holiness , which is a redemptive union, or just the opposite, cause holiness to be in the service of it, thus being a source of spiritual slavery. The first “homer” in this parsha depicts a state where Israel are in the service of the material, I.e slavery, but shortly after we see how the “heimar” clay comes in the service of Israel to protect the holy Moshe from drowning/infanticide. Then, in Moshe’s mission to redeem Israel the donkey – “hamor” – functions to serve Moshe in riding his family. Then, in the plague of frogs we see exactly how materialism can become so detrimental in “enslavement” – through excessive “piling – hamarim hamarim.” This is the exact “piling”/storage that is indicative in the Egyptian “storehouses” the Israelites were forced to build in slavery. It seems that measure for measure the Egyptians were given these stinking piles of dead frogs. Then, at the Exodus a commandment, also binding to this day, was given – the sanctification of the donkey, I.e the symbol of how the material can be “sanctified” in the service of the holy. There is tons, and without exaggeration a booklet’s worth of insights at least I notice, that can be discussed about this painting, but we have already past the limit we can write for this week…
Both Avraham’s vision about the redemption from Egypt, the source of all redmptions, and Avraham straddling his donkey, the symbol of redemption, for the Akeida occurred inHebron(see Ramban Breshit 23, 2).This is Hebron the City of Redemption(see T”Zhar 28b).