The story of the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac, introduces us to two – unnamed – servants of Abraham who were left at the foot of Mount Moriah when Abraham and Isaac climbed up the mountain at God’s command.
This is what we hear: “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his ass; he took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son… Abraham said to the young men, ‘You stay here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder; we will worship, and come back to you'” (Gen. 22:3,5).
Who actually were the two young men?
According to the sages, Ishmael and Eliezer. Ishmael was Abraham’s son by Hagar, and Eliezer was his favourite servant.
The fact that he took them along is no problem; Rashi explicitly informs us that a person of importance does not venture out without two attendants. The fact that it was Ishmael and Eliezer that he took is also no problem; they were the obvious choice.
The question the reader asks, however, is why in the end they were left at the foot of the mountain.
One view is that because they were close to Abraham, they might have tried to dissuade him from going any further once they discovered the real nature of his journey.
A midrashic view constructs a possible conversation that might have taken place en route.
Seeing the mountain just ahead, Abraham might have said to Isaac, “What do you see?” Isaac’s reply, according to the Midrash, would have been, “I see a great, majestic mountain with a cloud entwined around its peak”.
The two young men might have responded, “What do we see? Some hill or other!” Thereupon Abraham could have told them, “Then if that’s all you see, you stay here with the donkey. The donkey has no spiritual perception and neither do you!”
An Ishmael and an Eliezer, for all their virtues, lack vision and imagination and the capacity to be inspired and enthused by what they see ahead. An Isaac sees a beautiful, poetic moment.