Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Toldos

Digging Wells

Yitzchok digs wells...

"And Yitzchok again dug the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father, Avrohom. Because the Philistines sealed them up, after the death of Avrohom..." (26:18)

"And Yitzchok's servants dug in the wadi, and they found there a well of living water." (26:19)

"And they dug another well... And he moved on from there, and he dug another well..." (26:21,22)

What is so important about digging wells that this is recorded in such detail?

The Zohar comments about these verses that, nowadays, we can find living water through mitzvos. Obviously, these verses have deeper meaning than that which first meets the eye.

The Talmud (Baba Kama, 17a) likens Torah - by means of which the world was created - to water. Both Avrohom Avinu and Yitzchok Avinu 'dug' through the earthiness of the material world, and found the spiritual Source of Creation concealed beneath.

The word for well, be'er, also means "explain." Thus, the intent of the verse should be understood to symbolize varying approaches to searching for spirituality.

Each of the Patriarchs excelled in a particular characteristic, a particular approach. The special, outstanding characteristic of Avrohom Avinu was kindness "Give truth to Ya'akov, kindness to Avrohom" (Michah, 7:20). Kindness was Avrohom's tool for digging away the world's materialism, to find G-d. Kindness was the vehicle with which he spread the word of G-d throughout the world. The 'digging of wells' by Avrohom's servants refers to their seeking G-d's Kindness, hidden within all aspects of the material world.

Yitzchok Avinu's outstanding characteristic was fear of G-d "Fear of Yitzchok" (Vayeitzei, 31:42). Fear was Yitzchok Avinu's main tool for seeking G-d. The 'digging of wells' by Yitzchok's servants refers to their search for G-d's Awesomeness, concealed in all aspects of the material world. Thus, the Avos taught us to find G-d even in the physical world.

We, too - if we dig beneath the concealing layers of materialism - will discover the Source - anywhere, everywhere - even in times of spiritual 'drought' and 'famine'. But, as the Zohar teaches us, our main tools are not the tools of Avrohom, nor of Yitzchok. Ours is the tool of Ya'akov Avinu: truth - Torah.

Avrohom's wells had become sealed, clogged up; Yitzchok dug new wells. Concerning Yitzchok's wells we find later "a large stone covered the well" (B'reishis, 29:2) - hinting that Yitzchok's well, also, became sealed. But Ya'akov removed that large stone. Through his characteristic of truth - Torah - we too, can dig and discover that spirituality which this world's thick layer of materialism conceals (Sfas Emes Toldos, 5650, 5661)


"Gleaned From the Sfas Emes"- excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of "The Sfas Emes Haggadah"(Targum Press) and "Kasheleg Yalbinu", a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.


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