Torah Fax

Friday, November 14, 2003 - 19 MarCheshvan, 5764

Torah Reading:VaYera (Genesis  18:1 - 22:24)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:20 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:22 PM  

Just Doing My Job

The Akeidah, the story of the binding of Isaac, is one of the most powerful and enigmatic stories we read in the Torah. Many have grappled with the issue of how Abraham, the man who is characterized by our tradition as the kindest human being to have ever lived, could have been prepared to carry out the sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac. In this message we will focus on the way Abraham's incredible achievement affected him and how it can be applied to our own generation.

In the beginning of the narrative of the Akeidah, the Torah tells us that as Abraham and Isaac approached the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of the Akeidah, Abraham left his "youths," (Ne'arim in Hebrew, helpers who traveled with Abraham and Isaac) and continued on the last leg of the journey alone with Isaac. At this point in the narrative, Isaac still did not know the purpose of the trip, namely - that he was intended to be sacrificed. Yet the Torah tells us, "And the two walked together." Their walking together, Rashi informs us, was meant to convey that, "Abraham who knew that he was going to slaughter his son walked with the same degree of desire and joy as Isaac who did not sense what was about to happen."

A few verses later, the Torah tells us-according to Rashi's translation- that Abraham revealed to his son Isaac that he was going to be in place of the lamb. Yet, the Torah testifies once more that "the two walked together," suggesting that Isaac went wholeheartedly with Abraham, despite the fact that he knew that he was to be slaughtered.

It is evident from these two interpretations that our Sages understood the phrase "and the two walked together," as an indication that they were emotionally on the same page. Based on this premise, a question arises: When Abraham returns from the site of the Akeidah with his youths-who were oblivious to the entire ordeal of the Akeidah-the Torah also employs a similar expression: "And Abraham returned to his youths, and they arose and they walked together."  What message does the Torah want to convey to us when it lumps Abraham and his youths together? It certainly does not just mean that they physically rode together. But how could it mean that they were together emotionally? How could we suggest that Abraham, who had just performed the ultimate act of sacrifice, and passed the greatest test in history with flying colors, experienced the same lack of emotion as his youths, who were far away (both geographically and spiritually from the entire episode?

R. Yisroel of Ruzhin, the great Chassidic master, explains this "walking together" of Abraham and his youths in a rather novel way.  Many, if not most people, upon meeting a challenge, feel a sense of accomplishment that gives them a certain feeling of superiority. Occasionally this can make them arrogant and cause them to act condescendingly to others. The greater the challenge, contrasted with the insignificant nature of the other individual, can make the gulf between them even wider.

Abraham was returning from the Akeidah, history's greatest achievement. And yet, he felt not a trace of superiority over the simple youths with whom he was walking, who indeed, did not even have the slightest inkling of what had just transpired. This was one powerful feature of Abraham's greatness. To reach so high and yet not feel that he was better than another. 

We may add that the word "youths" used by the Torah in this verse is instructive in yet another way. Abraham was not a young man. And now that he had passed the test of the Akeidah-the tenth and last test G‑d administered to him, according to our Sages-Abraham was entitled to feel his age and retire. Instead, the Torah tells us that "Abraham returned to his youths," after such an illustrious career he did not rest on his laurels, but returned to his youthful endeavors. He continued his life's work of bringing the light of Judaism, justice and righteousness to the world. "He arose," and did not falter or experience any "burnout." "And he went together with them." He did not even fall behind the level and pace of his youthful achievements.

The Jewish people have gone through Abraham's ten tests, many tens of times. We have demonstrated incredible sacrifice and devotion to G‑d and humanity. In this advanced state our journey through exile, and at the pinnacle of our achievements, some might feel a tinge of arrogance or burnout, or both.  The message of this week's parsha is that even, nay especially, after reaching this advanced level, we must return to our youthful state. We must humbly, but optimistically and enthusiastically, march forward to the new age of goodness and holiness that will accompany the future Redemption that we have been waiting for close to 2,000 years. Now is not the time to retire from our Jewish accomplishments, but to "return to our youths, arise and walk together with them." Or, in the words of the prophet: "Return us, o G‑d to You and we shall return, renew our days as of old."

Moshiach Matters

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) tells us that in the future, G‑d will reveal the secrets of the Torah through Moshiach. The Rambam, in his commentary on the Mishnah (Sanhedrin) says the same
thing: “Wondrous (Torah teachings) will be revealed through him (Moshiach).”
(Likkutei Sichos, vol. 22, pg. 76, note 10,11)

Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

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