Weekly Torah Commentary — Toldot Nov. 25, 2011

It seems that our Patriarchs, the Founding Fathers of Judaism, were enthralled with wellsprings.

First, the Bible tells us of Abraham’s involvement in well-digging and his rebuke to the king of the Philistines for allowing his servants to seize one of his wells. Abraham went so far as to perform an elaborate ceremony with the king, during which the king swore that the well would remain in Abraham’s possession.

After the death of Abraham, Isaac engages in relentless digging to uncover his father’s well which had been stopped up by the Philistines.  In addition, we read of at least another four wells that Isaac’s servants dig anew. We are even told the names Isaac granted his wells and of the battles he fought to hold on to them!
Jacob, too, seems to harbor special sentiments towards wells. When the Torah describes in next week’s portion his journey from Israel to the East, it tells us  that “Jacob looked and behold, a well in the field!” Jacob spends a lot of time at the well, and it is there that he encounters and decides to marry his wife-to-be, Rachel.
Why were the fathers of the Jewish people so connected to wells? And why does the Torah, a book of instruction and teachings, dedicate a significant part of this week’s portion Toldos to discuss the details of Isaac’s struggles to discover wellsprings?

The two sources of physical waters in our world parallel the two sources of wisdom and spiritual inspiration in our lives.
The first of these spiritual sources, which parallels above-ground water, is a sense of wisdom and inspiration that is born above and beyond the dirt of life’s daily challenges. It comes to lucid people at lucid moments; it is straightforward, easy and smooth. These are the waters that emerge from the hearts of pristine spiritual individuals; men and women unsoiled by the filth and muck innate to many a human character. Their waters are delightful and unrestricted.
But then there is the wisdom that emerges from life’s “dirt” and grime, from amid much struggle and inner strife; there is the inspiration born from those human hearts that are submerged in the psychological and emotional gravel of life. When a person, burdened by the daily pressures of earning a livelihood and raising a family, and bogged down by his earthly nature and his immoral urges bursts out with a yearning to transcend his dirt and connect to G-d – this small, restricted flow of water seeping out from a sandy and rocky psyche is more refreshing and potent than all of the serene waters located above the “ground.”

In Tune with Torah this week = The fathers of the Jewish people taught us to fight for and to cherish those moments of truth, fleeting as they are, and those small sparks of idealism, transient as they seem, buried within the deep rubble of falsehood and grit.

Shabbat Shalom

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