The Journey By Rabbi Avi Pollak

(2003/5764)

The Torah tells us almost nothing about Avraham Avinu's fateful journey to Har HaMoriah. Bereshit 22:3 briefly states that Avraham chopped some wood, prepared his donkey, and took Yitzchak, Yishmael and Eliezer along for the trip. Not a single word or detail is then offered about the three day trip itself. We are simply told that on the third day, when Avraham located his destination, he and Yitzchak proceeded alone to the Akeidah.

The Torah's silence regarding the three day trip is agonizing. What did Avraham and Yitzchak feel along the way? Were they eager or reluctant to continue their mission? Did Yitzchak even realize his destiny as a korban or did he accompany Avraham with a blissful ignorance? These and many other questions plague everyone who reads the Pesukim that lead up to the Akeidah. 

Ibn Ezra tells us that Avraham did everything possible to conceal the real purpose of the trip from Yitzchak. If Yitzchak had realized that he was going to be sacrificed he might have gotten frightened and run away. This explains why Avraham told Yishmael and Eliezer that he and Yitzchak would both go to bow to Hashem and then return. Even though he fully expected to return alone, he could not yet afford to let Yitzchak realize this. When Yitzchak himself asked his father why they did not have an animal to offer as a Korban, Avraham was forced to answer that Hashem would show them the animal.  When Yitzchak asked his father about the missing animal, he stated, "Here is the fire and the wood." but neglected to mention the knife. Why the omission? The Ibn Ezra might answer (as R' Zalman Sorotzkin does) that Avraham hid the knife so Yitzchak would not possibly imagine that it would be used to slaughter him. Even at this point, Avraham could not let Yitzchak in on his fate.

Other Mefarshim assume that Yitzchak realized his fate before reaching the altar and willingly accepted it as God's will. According to this approach, Yitzchak, as well as Avraham, showed amazing inner strength by complying with God's command. Support for this approach can be gleaned from the brief conversation between Avraham and Yitzchak before the Akeidah.  Once Avraham and Yitzchak proceeded alone to Har HaMoriah, Yitzchak turned to his father and said “Avi,” “My father," and his father responded, “Hineni Beni,” “Here I am, my son." What was going on behind these elusive comments? 

The Kli Yakar explains that as soon as Avraham and Yitzchak proceeded to the mountain, Yitzchak realized that he was going to be the sacrifice. He then turned to Avraham and asked, "Avi? Are you still my loving father? Even as you plan to sacrifice me, do you love me as always?" To this heartfelt plea Avrham responded, "Here I am, my son. I am your loving father now as always." The puzzled Yitzchak questioned further, "Then why are you going to offer me as a sacrifice?" Avraham responded, "It is God's will alone that compels me to do this deed." And the two continued along their sacred path, father and son, together.  We can also find support for this approach from Yitzchak's significant omission of the knife. Every year my father remarks that Yitzchak mentioned the fire and the wood and did not mention the knife because he was in a state of denial. He surely saw the knife in Avraham's hand (see verse 6) but he could not admit it because he was still having a difficult time accepting his painful fate. Only after

Avraham assured him that it was truly God's will that he be sacrificed did they continue together with pure Emunah.

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