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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Toldos 5767

The sedra tells of the birth and development of Jacob and Esav. The selling of the Birthright and eventually of Jacob's underhanded wresting the blessings from their father Isaac. An incident that occurred when Isaac was living in the Philistine city of Gerar is also recorded.

Let us look at a verse in that section (26:6-22). Isaac settled down in Gerar and became rich. The Philistines then became jealous of his financial success.


14) and he (Isaac) had flocks and cattle and much possessions and the Philistines were jealous of him. 15) And all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father the Philistines stopped up and filled them with dirt.


26:15 the Philistines stopped up Rashi: Because they (Philistines) said "they are a problem for us because of the armies who come against us."


Rashi gives us the reasoning of the Philistines for stuffing up the life-nurturing wells. He says foreign armies can make use of them when they want to attack us, so let's stop them up so they can't have any water.

What would you ask on this comment?

Hint: Look at the verse preceding our verse. (26:14)

Your Question:


A Question: The previous verse tells us the Philistines were jealous of Isaac's wealth. Why isn't that a good enough reason for them destroying Isaac's wells? Why does Rashi have to offer a different reason?

Hint: Look at the two verses and see if they give you a clue. Also think logically.

Can you explain this?

Your Answer:


An Answer; If jealousy was the motivation of the Philistines the verse would have stated this somewhat differently. Verse 15, which follows the statement that "the Philistine's were jealous of him" should have begun "And they stopped up and filled them with dirt" etc. This would have conveyed the idea that we are talking about cause and effect. Cause = "the Philistine's were jealous of him".

Effect: = "And the Philistines stopped up and filled the wells." But verse 15 begins by saying "And all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham," etc. This conveys the sense that we are beginning a new unconnected incident.

It may be for this reason that Rashi sought a different reason for the stopping up the wells.

But the Philistines were, in fact, jealous of Isaac. Was that totally irrelevant? Does it not say in the very next verse that they asked Isaac (told him) to leave their area?

How does Rashi's comment deal with this?

Hint: Look carefully at Rashi's words.

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi begins with " Because they said". "They said" This was their public explanation (that foreign armies would use the wells) but the true reason was their jealousy of Isaac.

But as we think of it , it is truly strange. |The Philistines needed these well themselves. Why destroy them? If they feared foreign armies they should have protected the wells not totally destroyed them.

Let us look at these stories from the perspective of history. The Ramban often tells us that "Ma'asei Avos Siman L'banim." The events of the forefathers are a sign for future generations. In that light let us look at the stories of Abraham and Isaac's relationship with the Philistines. (= Palestinians).


The Rashbam gives an unusual interpretation of the Akeida, G-d's command to Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

Chapter 22 begins with "And it was after these things that G-d tested (or tried) Abraham." We ask: After which "things"? See Ch. 21:22 and following which immediately precedes the Akaida command. . There it tells us of the Covenant Abraham made with Avimelech, the king of the Philistines. Abraham consented to a peace treaty between him, his children & his grandchildren and the Palestinians not to be deceitful one with the other. After this, says the Rashbam, G-d punished Abraham for making a peace trweaty with the Philkistines. Hsad not G-d told Abraham that his children would inherit this land? Why did he make peace with them? So G-d then showed Abraham that there would be no peace, no covenant with foreigners in the Land of Israel. Abraham/Avimelech Covenant was between "their children and grandchildren" Said G-d: Abraham, you cannot be sure you will even have living children. Let alone grandchildren. You are to sacrifice - kill - you only son! This was his punishment for the Covenant with the Philistines.


Let us now look at that Covenant. At that very Covenant ceremony "not to lie one to other" Abraham upbraids the king for the Palestinians stealing Abraham's wells( verse 25). Avimelech acts innocent, saying "I know nothing about this!" And after this deceitful excuse (breaking their covenant immediately) Abraham, ignores the broken Covenant terms, and nevertheless gives Avimelech presents! Strange! (The Israeli government gave the Palestinians weapons even after they continued to break the terms of the Oslo Covenant?)

Now let us see our story in this week's sedra, about Isaac's relationship with the Palestinians. See verses 26:13 & following. Isaac grows rich in the area of the Palestinians and they become jealous of him. They (after signing a Covenant between the children and grandchildren already in the second generation (Isaac, Abraham's son) is asked to leave the area, breaking the Covenant again. And then what do the Palestinians do? They destroy the wells, which Abraham dug - even though they needed them themselves.

Do you recall last year when the Gush Katif families were evicted they were asked to leave in tact their productive Hothouses, so that the Palestinians could make a living and become self-supporting? What did the Philistines (!) do immediately upon taking over that area? They destroyed the Hothouses left for their own benefit!

Ma'sei Avos Siman L'banim! History repeats itself -to the letter.

Let us pray for better days.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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