Yitzhak suffers from Middle Patriarch Syndrome. In most of the Torah’s narrative about him, he is passive, primarily acted upon. Think of the Akedah, in which is literally bound to an altar, and the story of Rivkah and Ya’akov deceiving him into giving the blessing to the younger of his twin sons. But this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, also contains the only narratives about Yitzhak as an actor, as involved convincingly in the events of his life. And most of those narratives involve wells.
The Torah says: “Yitzhak returned and dug the wells of water…The servants of Yitzhak, digging in the valley, found a well of living water” (Genesis 26:18-19). The peshat, the contextual reading of these verses, ought to conjure images of dirt, shovels, sweat, and excitement over unearthing a water source. But when we hear the term “dig deep,” we might also be thinking of its metaphoric meaning. In modern terms, such digging is usually in search of the self. Look what YouTube suggests when searching “dig a little deeper:”
But you might remember my Rosh Hashanah sermon, in which I encouraged you not only to find yourself, but to lose yourself in something bigger as well. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the Hasidic masters read the digging metaphor as a “losing yourself” exercise. On Shabbat afternoon, we will see how Rabbi Menachem Nahum of Chernobyl understood Yitzhak’s digging.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and Shalom ‘al Yisrael,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 4:17 PM
Torah Reading: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7