Parsha Toldot: Bereshith/Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
A couple weeks ago, we talked about Abraham and how his characteristics form the foundation of the set-apart nation of Yisrael. YAHUAH chose the three patriarchs Abraham, Yitshaq (Isaac), and Ya’aqob (Jacob) so their ways and traits would be instilled in all their descendants, physical and spiritual.
In this week’s Torah portion (Parsha Toldot), we see an important characteristic of Yitshaq that must also be part of the set-apart people - tenacity and perseverance in achieving spiritual goals.
A Farmer and a Well-Digger
There is not a whole lot said about Yitshaq in the Torah in comparison to Abraham and Ya’aqob, but he is no less important in the formation of YAH’s people and his lessons are no less pertinent to us.
Two things stand out in Yitshaq’s story: he was a very successful farmer and a fiercely determined well-digger.
Bereshith/Genesis 26:12-14 “And Yitshaq sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold, and יהוה blessed him. (13) And the man grew great and went forward until he became very great. (14) And he came to have possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great body of servants, and the Philistines envied him.”
When scarcity of food hit, Yitshaq did not go down to Egypt like his father Abraham. He stayed in the land as YAH said, but he moved to Gerar, the place of the Philistines (Ber/Gen. 26:1-3).
In that land, Yitshaq sowed, and he reaped a hundredfold! Even though it was a time of scarcity, he gathered 100x more than he expected! YAH blessed him, and he continued to prosper until he had many possessions and became ‘very great.’
Yitshaq sowed, and then he reaped. Simple.
Now, the story of his well-digging was not so simple.
First, Yitshaq had to re-dig his father’s wells. The Philistines stopped them up, and Yitshaq had to labor to dig them all over again.
Then, Yitshaq dug his own wells. However, the Philistines claimed the first one he dug was theirs, and they argued about it until Yitshaq conceded. So, he moved and dug a second well, but the Philistines argued about that one, too.
Yitshaq moved yet again, dug yet another well, and this time, there was no argument. Finally, he could enjoy his water in peace. He built an altar to YAHUAH and . . . dug another well! (Ber/Gen. 26:15-25)
Now compare the two: Yitshaq labored and toiled to dig wells, but his field . . . just prospered. Of course, farming required work, but the Torah doesn’t talk about it being as hard a task as Yitshaq’s well-digging. The Torah doesn’t indicate that Yitshaq had to toil, suffer defeat, and persevere with his planting. It simply says that he sowed, he reaped, and YAH blessed.
So, what's the Lesson?
When we think of the field, we think of wheat. We think of bread, sustenance, and livelihood.
When we think of wells, we think of water. We think life and spirit.
Bread is often associated with the physical, and water is often associated with the spiritual.
Yitshaq was persistent, determined, and unrelenting in the pursuit of water - the spiritual matters of life.
Digging for Water
In our world, it’s hard to see the spiritual. Earthy, physical things block it. Materialism, pleasure, the self - all keep people from recognizing the spiritual matters pertaining to YAHUAH and His Torah.
We have to dig through all that physical ‘dirt’ to get to the life-giving waters.
It is indeed ‘work.’ When everybody and everything around us promotes the physical things, it’s difficult to focus on spiritual things. We have to work to stay focused. We have to use effort to learn Torah and then to obey it.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the predominant mindset of our society. Even if we think we're not, our actions sometimes speak loud and clear.
It takes effort for us to push away the physical and to pursue spiritual matters. But without the waters of life from YAHUAH, we die. The water is absolutely vital to our survival.
Giving Your All
Yitshaq sowed, but he did not have to labor, toil, and persevere at it. In other words, he did what was required, but it did not consume him.
Instead, well-digging “consumed” him. He worked hard, persevered, and overcame obstacles until he finally had success. He pursued water not only so he could drink and live, but so others could drink and live.
So, let’s not get caught up in the world’s material lies:
Whatever it takes to get ahead.
Join the rat race to keep up with the Joneses.
It’s your level of success that matters.
Your car, your house, and your bank account are what make you important.
Work, work, work, to get rich.
Do whatever you can to get more, more, more; to get bigger and better.
Yitshaq teaches us to flip all this on its head.
He tenaciously dug wells, and YAHUAH blessed him greatly in the field.
If we labor in the spiritual, YAH will bless us with the physical.
Do what’s required, but make it your goal in life to pursue spiritual matters.
Work, work, work, and labor - to get to know YAH, to learn His Torah, and to be in obedience.
Use your strength to dig wells. Apply your talents, abilities, skills, and intellect to learning YAH’s ways and sharing Him with others.
Make YAHUAH the focus of your efforts, and He will make sure your livelihood (material wealth) is more than taken care of.
Be tenacious and persevere in the spiritual matters, and YAH will bless you and prosper you in the physical matters.