Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Toldos 5781
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha about the different wells that Yitzchak and Avraham dug, and the disputes which resulted. First we read (Chapter 26, Pasuk 15), V’Chol Ha’Be’eros Asher Chafru Avdei Aviv Bimei Avraham Aviv, Sitmum Pelishtim, Va’Yemalum Afar. All the wells which had been dug by his father Avraham’s slaves were closed and filled up by the Pelishtim. And then a few pasukim later we read (Pasuk 18), Vayashav Yitzchak Vayachpor es Be’eros Ha’Mayim Asher Chafru Bimei Avraham Aviv, Yitzchak returned and opened up his father’s wells. The pasuk concludes by saying, Vayikra Lahen Sheimos, Ka’Sheimos Asher Kara Lahen Aviv; Yitzchak renamed these wells with the names his father gave them.

What is the significance of the Torah relating to us the story of the wells of Avraham and Yitzchak?

The parsha begins with the words (Chapter 25, Pasuk 19), V’Eileh Toldos Yitzchak ben Avraham, these are the generations of Yitzchak ben Avraham. The Medrash Rabbah (12,3) teaches that the word V’Eileh always comes to add to that which came before, as opposed to Eileh which rejects and supersedes that which came before. What are the words V’Eileh Toldos adding to?

The Sfas Emes teaches that V’Eileh Toldos is adding to the pasuk in parshat Bereishis (Chapter 2, Pasuk 4), Eileh Toldos Shamayim Va’Aretz B’Hibaram; this is what happened with the heaven and earth when He created them. The Medrash Rabbah (12,9) teaches that one should rearrange the letters of B’Hibaram, and read it as Avraham. The world was maintained through the merit of Avraham, through his Chesed and love of Hashem. In our parsha, the V’Eileh Toldos is coming to add to this. No longer is the world being held up exclusively through Chesed and love. Added to the Chesed of Avraham is the Gevurah and fear of Yitzchak; V’Eileh Toldos Yitzchak.

The first pasuk continues, Avraham Holid es Yitzchak. The Sfas Emes learns that these words are teaching us something very fundamental. Avraham instilled his trait of Ahavah and Chesed into Yitzchak. And Yitzchak himself developed a different midah, that of fear of Hashem and spiritual, inner strength; Gevurah. And it was only through this fusion between love and fear that Yitzchak was able to father Yaakov, whose midah was Emes, as the pasuk says (Michah, Chapter 7, Pasuk 20), Titen Emes L’Yaakov, the Emes of Torah. And this is what Avraham Holid es Yitzchak means; Avraham allowed Yitzchak to father Yaakov. Yitzchak, through his synthesis of his and his father’s traits, filtered out Eisav and produced the Bechir Ha’Avos, the choicest of the forefathers, Yaakov Avinu.  

The Sfas Emes understands that the parsha of the wells is alluding to this process of merging the traits of Avraham and Yitzchak. In order for Yitzchak to develop his own growth in Yirah and Gevurah in the world, the midah of Avraham needed to be put on hold temporarily. This is symbolized by the pasuk telling us Sitmum Pelishtim; the wells of Avraham were closed up. And when Yirah was firmly established, the pasuk says Vayashav Yitzchak Vayachpor; Yitzchak went back and dug up the wells of his father. There was now a revival and renewal of the midah of Chesed of Avraham Avinu. And as the pasuk says Vayikra Lahen Sheimos; Yitzchak reestablished the Chesed of his father and combined it with his own trait and gave it new meaning.

Perhaps we can derive from this teaching of the Sfas Emes a formula for chinuch for our children. Each person is different and has what to contribute. And in order to develop his own uniqueness, he needs to put aside that which he acquired from his father and find his own path. But this is only temporary; ultimately he needs to join that which he received from his father with his own growth and produce a new improved version. Ultimately, we come back to our source and the teachings of our father.

Good Shabbos

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