Vayera: Who Sees and Who is A Donkey?

The midrash “Pirke Divre Eliezar” deals in length with the “Akeidat Yitzchak”, and relates the following: “On the third day they arrived at Zofim (Avraham, Yitzhak, and the two boys) When they arrived at Zofim, (Avraham) saw the “Schina” (Divine Presence) on the top of the mountain, as it is written, ‘on the third day Avraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar’. What did he see? He saw a pillar of fire leading up from the ground to the heavens. He said to Yitzchak his son: My son, do you see anything on those hills? He said, yes. He said to him: what do you see. He said: I see a pillar of fire leading up from the ground to the heavens.And Avraham understood that the boy was desired by Hashem to be an offering. He said to Yishamel and Eliezar: Do you see anything up in those mountains? They said: no. He considered them donkeys and said to them, ‘sit here with the donkey’. He said to them: Just like a donkey doesn’t see anything, you don’t see anything either.”

A tremendous lesson is learned here. After all, why is Yitzchak so special for seeing the pillar of fire? Why is this in itself enough to make him worthy of being a pure offering to God? By the same token, why are Eliezar and Yishamel at fault for not seeing the pillar of fire? Perhaps they have poor eyesight? Is it not a bit harsh to call them donkeys for this? Obviously, we are not talking about ordinary seeing. Avraham is determining who has the power of sight, who has the eternal spark – and who is the donkey, static and transient, here today and gone tomorrow.

And Avraham discovers that indeed, Yitzhak is the one who sees, the man of vision. He sees things which the pragmatic, myopic, “now” people do not. Yitzhak is not frightened by the pillar of fire which seems so distant, apparently unattached to the realities of the day. This is why Avraham tells Eliezar and Yishamel to sit in their places. He considers them donkeys, the sages tell us. The donkey sees the food two feet in front of his face, and no further. Anything beyond that does not exist for him. It is only he who has elevated himself above donkey status who sees the TRUE reality.

My father and teacher, Rabbi Meir Kahane, z”tl, H”yd, — saw. He did not see things which others could not see, but rather what they did not WANT to see, because it simply scared them. For it is always more pleasant to look at the here and now, the practical, the immediate benefits.

The tragedy is that there was no Avraham who was able to appreciate and recognize the fact that, yes, here is a man who sees. And so, all those immersed in their donkeyism shouted at the extremist who saw so many strange things. They so opposed him that they simply decided to take the pillar of fire which he saw, and make it illegal.

Today we live in a time when pragmatism dominates our thinking. He who is not practical, who doesn’t face “realities”, who isn’t willing to compromise on his ideals and forego Kiddush Hashem here and there – HE is told to sit on the side, because he doesn’t understand “politics”. A severe sin indeed. If you don’t understand “politics”, you are guilty of the crime of seeing the pillar of fire. You are guilty of not allowing people to live in their illusions and with their compromises. The “seers” are supposed to put their pillars of fire and their visions on the side.

Let us learn this lesson today, on the Yahrzeit of my father, H”yd, the man who was ready to pay the price for seeing the pillar of fire – the price of the walk to the Akeida. Let us finally see the pillar of fire, and not succumb to the plague of pragmatism which threatens to turn us all into donkeys who only see the straw in front of their noses. Let us remember that we are not the descendants of the donkey Yishmael and Eliezar, but rather the descendants of the seers – Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov.

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