Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

The Bible’s First Excavator

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner
Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the life of our forefather Yitzchak (Isaac).  One of the things the Torah tells us is that Yitzchak moved to the city Grar where his father Abraham had once lived and he became very wealthy.  The people of Grar became very jealous of his wealth and they asked him to leave.  The Torah continues to tell us that before Yitzchak left, he redug the wells that his father had dug when he had lived in Grar that the Philistines had filled with dirt.  The Torah continues to tell us how Yitzchok dug two additional wells, but, the Philistines fought with him over the ownership of those wells until finally Yitzchak dug a third well which the Philistines did not contest.

The above story seems very mysterious and begs the question , Why is the Torah telling it to us?  Nachmanidies explains that the first two wells which were contested symbolize the two temples that were built in Jerusalem, in which G-d’s presence resided, but were subsequently destroyed by other nations.  However, the third well refers to the third temple that will be built in the days of Moshiach and will be eternal.

However, a question still remains: what is the connection between a well and temple in Jerusalem?  Also, why does the Torah tell us about Abraham’s wells being stuffed up and redug by Yitzchak?

We can find an explanation for this by understanding the difference between Abraham and Yitzchak.  The Kabbalah teahes that there are ten realms of G-dly expression called “Sefiros” with which G-d interacts with our world and that these very same realms are found within every person’s being.  Amongst these ten realms are “Chesed, kindness and Gevurah, strength.”  The Kabbalah teaches that Abraham was the paradigm of kindness while Yitzchak was the paradigm of strength.

The definition of the spiritual quality of strength is the power one has in one’s soul to do something difficult and challenging.  This is what it says in the “Ethics of Our Fathers“: “Who is strong, he who controls his negative inclinations.”  This then is the meaning of Yitzchak digging wells.  When one digs a well, he gets rid of the exterior surface of dirt which is the parallel of our negative exterior qualities and finds a spring of live water which is the parallel of the goodness and holiness found in the depth of our souls. Yitzchak was more successful at doing this than his father Abraham and that is why the Torah tells us that the wells that Abraham dug were stuffed up but were dug up again by Yitzchak. (Based on the teaching of the Chabad Chassidic Masters.)


About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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One comment

  1. Yitzchak was emotionally subservient to his father Avraham. He probably felt that he could not measure up to his father's footsteps. He went to his father's old residence rather than staking out a new legacy of his own and he dug up the old wells from his father's past rather than start out digging out his own. He had to get to the third well, after he was not allowed to re-institute his father's legacy, to get it "right". Although his father and his son found their own wives, he had to use his father's influence to find his betrothed. I don't see Yitzchak as a model of strength, I see Yitzchak as a conduit between Avraham and Yaakov.