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Isaac was Boring, Wasn't He?

For November 22, 2022

Toldot 3rd Portion - Genesis 26:18

וַיָּ֨שׇׁב יִצְחָ֜ק וַיַּחְפֹּ֣ר ׀ אֶת־בְּאֵרֹ֣ת הַמַּ֗יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר חָֽפְרוּ֙ בִּימֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יו וַיְסַתְּמ֣וּם פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים אַחֲרֵ֖י מ֣וֹת אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיִּקְרָ֤א לָהֶן֙ שֵׁמ֔וֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹ֕ת אֲשֶׁר־קָרָ֥א לָהֶ֖ן אָבִֽיו׃

“And Isaac again dug wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Abraham, and the Philistines had stopped them up after Abraham's death; and he gave them names like the names that his father given them”

The stories about the lives of Abraham and Jacob are exciting narratives, varied and full of new elements. That of Isaac sometimes seems a bit dull. Although he was the "suffering object" in the Akida, it was Abraham who played the "leading role".

Isaac only seems to repeat things from his father's life. Like his father, he goes to Egypt at the time of famine, goes to Gerar, and the "only" thing he seems to do is to reopen the wells that the Philistines have filled up and then he actually gives them the same names that his father gave the wells.

1. The right to property. The wells are his father's property and by digging them up again and giving them the same names, he shows who the wells belong to and that they remain in the family's possession.

From this we can learn that the land belongs to the descendants of Abraham,

as G-d promised him.

2. The Torah is compared to water. It was Abraham who, by always asking questions and searching for the truth, as it were, dug for the truth and found the water of the Torah. It was Abraham who rediscovered the truth of the Creator and gave Him the trust, honour and glory due to Him. Because he put his trust in God, there was water in the wells he dug to provide life for people, animals and land.

The Philistines did not put their trust in G-d. It was because of this that the wells ran out of water. And so the Philistines just filled them up with sand and earth.

It was Abraham - and by extension, Isaac and Jacob and the Jewish people as a whole - who revealed the living water of the Torah and the Creator, brought it to the surface, and it were the Philistines who hid the Creator under the material and physical world preventing the water of the Torah from coming to the surface.

From this we can learn that we should be with the Jewish people because they tap into the springs of Living Water, because it is they who reveal Divinity in Creation, through which we can live. In addition, we learn that we should be careful with the material physical world. Sand and earth are useful elements to use, but they should not obscure or cover the water of Torah.

3. Isaac walked in his father's footsteps. Made sure his father's tradition would be passed on. You shouldn't want to change that which is good and that which is true.

In each of us is an Isaac and in each of us is a Philistine. Some want to uphold tradition, others have seen it after a while. The Philistine in us is "habituation", is "now I know". The Isaac in is is the one who stays with what he has been taught, but renewed - he digs the wells again - to find new water of life again.

From this we learn that we need to maintain our initial enthusiasm. People who have just become Noahide sometimes throw themselves enthusiastically into the stories, into the parashot, into the 7 mitzvot, into the prayers and so on. Only to find after two or three years that the enthusiasm wanes. Everything has been heard once, everything has been done once. Skip it once, skip it once, do it again tomorrow.....

The trick is to find something new each time in the same stories, in the same mitzvot, the same prayers, etc. Each time re-excavate, renew, deepen the well. That is the Isaac in us.

Brought By Angelique Sijbolts


Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners and intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.



Chabadapp: chumash with Rashi


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