Take Two by Rabbi Ezra Weiner


This week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayera, relates that Avraham’s preparation for the Akeida included the taking of two נערים, lads, to accompany him and Yitzchak.  Rashi explains the significance of two נערים by saying that a distinguished man is not permitted to journey without two people, for when one of the men will need to relieve himself the other will still be with the important man.

R’ David ben Shmuel Halevi (the Taz) in his work, דברי דוד, poses a difficulty with this comment of Rashi in light of another comment of Rashi in Parshat Balak.  In Parshat Balak(22:22), Rashi explains that the Torah records that בלעם took two נערים to teach that a distinguished man who journeys should take two men with him to serve him, and who will also serve each other.

Why does Rashi offer two unrelated functions of the two נערים on a journey?  Secondly, the language that Rashi employs is not parallel.  In ספר בראשית he writes that a distinguished man is not permitted (אינו רשאי) to go forth on a journey without two people, but in ספר במדבר he writes that one should go forth with two men (יוליך), but ascribes no prohibition.

The Taz offers the following explanation.  The necessity of two נערים to enable one נער to relieve himself and the necessity of two נערים to allow for one to serve the other complement each other.  Often the scenario will dictate which one is applicable.  If, for example, there are אנשים חשובים besides the primary אדם חשוב that are taking this journey then there really would be no need for two נערים to enable one to relieve himself.  After all, as the single נער relieves himself the אדם חשוב is still guarded properly.  However, the need for two נערים would still exist so that each one could assist the other (since we would not expect any of the אנשים חשובים to serve a נער).  On the other hand, if this אדם חשוב is מוחל על כבודו then there is no need for1 two נערים to assist one another (as the אדם חשוב would be willing to assist a single נער).  However, there still would be a need for two נערים, for if only one נער were present and he went to relieve himself the אדם חשוב would be unprotected.

In Avraham’s situation the two נערים were only necessary to insure protection of Avraham if one of the נערים would need to relieve himself.  This is because Avraham was certainly מוחל על כבודו and would have assisted and served a single נער, and because אברהם was the only אדם חושב on this journey.  It is for this reason that Rashi writes in ספר בראשית that the purpose of the two נערים was to insure security for the אדם חושב while one נער goes to relieve himself.  The אדם חשוב in ספר במדבר however, was בלעם הרשע, who was an arrogant individual who would not be מוחל על כבודו and in addition was accompanied by שרי מואב, Moabite officers, other אנשים חשובים.  The reason he needed two  נעריםwas not to insure his security if one נער needed to relieve himself since he had distinguished Moabite officers with him.  Two נערים however, were needed so that each could help serve the other for there is no doubt that בלעם would not lower himself to assist a נער.

This also explains the difference in Rashi’s language.  Avraham was “not permitted” ((אינו רשאי to go without two נערים because one should not put himself in a potentially insecure situation.  בלעם however, whose two  נעריםwere there just so that each one had someone to assist him “should go forth” יוליך)) with two נערים, but there is no actual prohibition to leave one נער without someone to serve him.

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