Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 6, 2020

Rabbi Isaac Bernstein
Congregation Etz Chaim
Livingston, NJ
Parashat Vayera

The best thing to feed the human ego is accomplishing something no else has. When this happens, one is filled with pride and may even look down on others who have not achieved what he or she has. 
Avraham and Yitzchak, at the end of this week’s parsha, accomplish a closeness to Hashem that no one could possibly beat. Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and Yitzchak was willing to go along with the plan. They consciously made this decision in order to fulfill the will of Hashem. We know this from the word “Yachdav, together.” Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that the word yachad implies a physical togetherness, whereas yachdav implies an internal and intimate closeness. The Torah tells us that Avraham and Yitzchak went on this mission together; not just physically, but with shared intentions. 
Before arriving at Har Hamoriah, the place where the sacrifice was to take place, Avraham tells Eliezer and Yishmael to stay back. Up until this point, all may join. But from here on out, it can only be Avraham and Yitzchak. The level of closeness they were about to reach was no place for Eliezer and Yishmael. 
Interestingly, after the episode is over, the last pasuk in the story tells us that Avraham returned to Eliezer and Yishmael, and they went to Be’er Sheva “yachdav.” Not yachad, but yachdav. The word is used again. An intimate closeness. 
Rabbi Hirsch teaches us an incredible lesson from this pasuk. He writes, “In all other circles of humanity, after such a soaring into the proximity of God…an Abraham and an Isaac would have been so full of ‘I, myself,’ that they would have been lost for ordinary earthly life, and for ordinary human beings. [This experience would] beget such pride that one proudly looks down on other people as ‘common mortals.’ [Abraham and Isaac however] feel no whit higher than anybody else. To the true son of Abraham, everybody is equally respected in their vocation… The higher he stands spiritually, intellectually or morally, the less superior does he feel, the less is he conscious of his own greatness.”
We must learn from our forefathers the trait of humility and to never feel so big, that we make other people small.