- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 17, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
This week’s Torah portion, Toldot, begins with the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, and their negotiation regarding the birthright, and the lifesaving stew. The portion ends with the complicated matter of Jacob receiving the blessing instead of Esau.
Right in the middle of these two incidents, the text focuses specifically on Isaac. He has sowed and reaped and done very well. He set about to dig up the wells, which had been dug during the life of his father. They had been stopped up by the Philistines, who filled them with earth after Abraham’s death.
Each time he dug and even found water, the Philistine herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with him. Isaac named the wells Esek and the other Sitnah, which means contention and hostility, an expression of his frustration of his experience there. But, Isaac was determined to find water even if it meant that he would need to dig in a new place. Finally he moved from there, and dug yet another well, without quarrel. He named it Rehovot for he had achieved his goal to have the space to increase.
The commentators wondered why the text went to great lengths to describe how the wells had been filled with earth after Abraham’s death. Surely, the discovery of a watering hole in the desert secured survival. Why would they want to injure themselves and their own livestock?
The great Torah scholar, Nehama Leibowitz, viewed the incidents as symbolic. “The conduct of the Philistines can only be understood if we take these wells to signify the sources of faith which the Patriarchs caused to flow and which the forces of desolation and idolatry stopped up.” (Studies in Genesis, page 259)
Our ancestors, through their relationship with the Divine, opened up life giving sustenance to the spirit. In doing so, they provided nourishment as a legacy passed down through the generations.
We are recipients of this source of spiritual strength. Shabbat, too, is a well from which we can draw upon. The opportunity to celebrate, to study, and to engage in prayer allows our souls to be refreshed. May your experience of Shabbat provide ways for your soul to be restored and renewed.
What a wonderful invigorating Shabbat we have in store. Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m. Tonight we begin the Burstein Scholars in Residence weekend with a focus on The Environmental Crisis – Our Spiritual Responsibility. It all continues on Saturday with a special Torah study starting at 9:00 a.m., followed by an exciting day of learning.
Live stream Qabbalat Shabbat HERE.
Connect with me directly and confidentially HERE with thoughts and reflections.