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Genesis 22:2 says:

Take now thy son, thine ben yachid (only son) Yitzchak, whom thou lovest.

Literally it says your son, your ‘individual, only, sole’, whom you love, Yitzchak (אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק).

Genesis 22:12 and 16 also talks about Yitzchak as the ben Yachid of Avraham.

Proverbs 4:3, Jeremiah 6:26, Amos 8:10 and Zechariah 12:10 again seem to use this kind of wording to describe a child (masculine). Judges 11:34 reads יְחִידָ֔ה or Yechidah also referring to a child (feminine).

Psalm 22:21, 25:16, 35:17, 68:6 referring to the soul or people who are on their own; alone.

Now what I would like to know is how to divine this word יחד, what’s its definition? Because in the case of Avraham he literally had two sons. And to refer to one’s soul as one’s only seems rather strange. People who are separated (alone), set apart (Yitzchak?), only offspring/sole heir, self (soul) etc. are all terms to translate and understand verses. So how would one define the common denominator in this case?

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On a very basic p'shat level, whilst Avraham did indeed have two sons - they were both 'only' sons, one from Sarah and one from Hagar, and so the term yechidcha would work in this context.

Alternatively according to the Ramban it was more to do with the sense of legacy:

קח נא את בנך את יחידך בעבור היותו בן הגבירה והוא לבדו אשר יקרא לו זרע קראו יחידו ובא הלשון להגדיל המצוה אמר קח נא את בנך היחיד האהוב יצחק והעלהו עולה לפני

TAKE NOW THY SON, THINE ONLY SON. Since Isaac was the son of the mistress and he alone was to be the one to carry his name, He called him Abraham’s only son. The description was for the purpose of magnifying the command, thus saying: “Take now thy only son, the beloved one, Isaac, and bring him up before Me as a burnt-offering.” (Sefaria translation my emphasis)

So as a starting point, Yitzchak was the son who would continue Avraham's legacy and inheritance and that is why he is referenced as 'Yechidcha' despite Avraham also having the son Yishmael.

The Ohr HaChaim provides another explanation that as you suggest, based on the verses in Tehillim, that it is an expression of love that comes from the soul. He writes:

וכנגד בכל נפשך אמר את יחידך וכיון שאין לו אלא הוא הוא הנפש כי מי שאין לו בנים חשוב כמת

Concerning love with one's soul, the Torah mentions יחידך; when a person has no children he is alone and considered as dead. Love with one's soul is therefore love with the only thing one has left to love with.

So here according to the Ohr HaChaim, the word 'yechidcha' is an expression that alludes to the fact that Avraham loved Yitzchak with all his soul and to part with him, would leave him alone and bereft of his son.

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  • It answers my question for one part; because it shows how the term is used in the specific case of Avraham (thank you), yet it doesn’t define the essence of this word (verb/noun) with regards to the other examples I gave. I mean what do an only child, soul and lonely people share?
    – Y.Talmid
    Oct 10 '21 at 7:49
  • I would counter that it does define them. The common thread is a sense of uniqueness. Yitzchak was his only child (from Sarah) and by Avraham killing him would be eliminating his soul and thus rendering him lonely. Therefore the term yechidcha ticks all the boxes as far as what the Akeida represented.
    – Dov
    Oct 10 '21 at 8:21
  • So you would call people who are alone like in the Psalms unique ?!
    – Y.Talmid
    Oct 11 '21 at 6:31
  • One of the definitions of 'unique' as per google is: "being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else" - people who are alone now represent the only one of their kind. In the context of Avraham, if Yitzchak had be killed he would now be alone, and thus unique, as there was no-one else to continue the family name and legacy.
    – Dov
    Oct 11 '21 at 8:04
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Prior to the creation of the Torah, the [Zohar 1:3b] claims א (Alef) or 1 represents Uniqueness or 'Yichud' as stated : "קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא אָלֶ''ף אָלֶ''ף אַף עַל גַּב דְּאָת בֵי''ת בַּהּ אִבְרֵי עָלְמָא, אַתְּ תְּהֵא רֵישׁ לְכָל אָתְוָון, לֵית בִּי יִחוּדָא אֶלָּא בָּךְ. בָּךְ יִשְׁרוּן כָּל חוּשְׁבָּנִין וְכָל עוֹבָדֵי דְעָלְמָא, וְכָל יִחוּדָא לָא הֲוֵי אֶלָּא בְּאָת אָלֶ''ף"

Additional definitions linked to יחד include :

Seclusion - based on [Avodah Zarah 36b.15] : “ ייחוד מן התורה “.

Unity — based on Rambam’s [Foundations of the Torah 1:7] : “This God is One God; He is neither two nor more than two but One to whose Unity there is no comparison among the individual units in the universe” (אֱלוֹהַּ זֶה אֶחָד הוּא וְאֵינוֹ שְׁנַיִם וְלֹא יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם. אֶלָּא אֶחָד. שֶׁאֵין כְּיִחוּדוֹ אֶחָד מִן הָאֲחָדִים הַנִּמְצָאִים בָּעוֹלָם.)

Alone - Based on [Yoma 23a.6] “the only ones” (הַיְּחִידִין)

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