The most famous commentary on the Torah and the Talmud was authored by the medieval French scholar, commonly known as Rashi (1040-1105), an acronym for his name, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. Rashi’s commentary continues to fascinate layman and scholar alike, and is taught to young children and even the most advanced students.
A number of Rashi’s descendants went on to become great scholars in their own right, particular the group of Talmudic scholars known as the Tosafists. One time, Rashi was sitting with one of his grandsons, later to become one of the Tosafists, studying the passage of the Binding of Isaac which appears in this week’s Torah portion.
“The word ‘together’ appears three times in the narrative,” stated his grandson. “The first time is in Genesis 22:6, which states, ‘And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, and he placed it upon his son Isaac… and they went together.’ Grandfather, on this verse you explained that Abraham knew that he was on the way to slaughter his son, and he nevertheless went as willingly and joyously as Isaac, who did not know.
“The next instance of the word ‘together’ is in 22:8, which states, ‘Abraham said, ‘G-d will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,’ and they both went together.’ You once again explained that even though Isaac was now aware of his fate, they still “went together,” that is to say, they went with equal willingness as before.
“Finally, after returning from the Binding of Isaac — Isaac’s life being spared at the last minute — the verse (22:19) states, ‘Abraham returned to his young men, and they got up and went together.’ In this instance, grandfather, you did not explain the meaning of the word “together.” What does it mean?”
“This,” Rashi said, “I have left for you to explain. Tell me, what do you think it means?”
His grandson responded: “I think there is, in fact, a profound lesson contained here. Despite all the tumult of the Binding of Isaac, where Abraham and Isaac showed complete willingness to carry out a divine directive, they were unaware of the greatness of their accomplishment. Human nature may be such that after a tremendous achievement, one would feel gratified and proud of oneself. But Abraham and Isaac did not let their momentous accomplishment affect their humility. In fact, they ‘went together,’ even with the donkey, who certainly did not feel conceited as a result of the epic experience.”
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It’s one thing to be energized by one’s success in coping with a spiritual challenge. It’s quite a different thing to allow oneself to be impressed by one’s own success.
Have a great Shabbos!