Parshas Toldos

November 1, 2013
28 Cheshvan, 5774
Candle-lighting Time 5:38 PM

This week’s Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Mrs. Eve Levy for her amazing leadership on her recent Women’s Israel trip. Welcome back and Yasher Koach!

Well, Well, Well
by Rabbi Raphael Leban

Living as we do in Colorado, we can easily appreciate the importance of water rights. Several years ago, one of our local Jewish cemeteries was informed that it had no legal rights to use the well-water it had always watered the grass with. The solution? The community raised $650,000 to purchase water rights. No small item on the holiday shopping list.

Certainly, too, in the Land of Israel, water rights are of primary concern. Much of the area is desert, and the Dead Sea just isn’t much help.

Still, it’s rather odd how much of the Torah’s ink is spilled over wells and water rights. We learn very little about the lives of our Forefathers; very few of the things that happened to them are mentioned. And yet there are many verses about the wells that Abraham dug and the wells that Isaac dug.

What’s the significance of all these wells?

In the mystical sources we find that wells are very symbolic. A well is a place through which water is brought out into the world. In the Torah, a well symbolizes a portal through which the glory of God is revealed in the world. It’s a gate or channel for connecting to God manifested by a particular pathway of divine service.

For example, Abraham is known to have been the epitome of serving God through ahava, love. Abraham related to God through ahava, by loving all those whom he came in contact with. By emulating God’s love of mankind, he revealed God’s great love for the world. That was Abraham’s well.

Isaac, on the other hand, epitomized the aspect of divine service called yirah, which is relating to God through awe. His recognition of God’s awesomeness, greatness and omnipotence informed every act of his life. Those who saw him saw a revelation of God’s unique, incredible power. Isaac introduced the path of yirah into the world. That was his well.

Ahava and yirah are two distinct ways that God relates to us, and through which we relate to Him. Distinct and quite different. Love evokes a desire to draw near, and awe prompts us to stand back. We love God and what he does for us. We feel awe and trepidation about His ultimate authority. These two divergent aspects of our relationship with God were exposed in the world by Abraham and Isaac respectively. These were the wells they dug.

There is still one verse in particular which is left to be understood. In this week’s parsha, it says that Isaac redug the wells that Abraham had dug, and he called them by the same names. If Abraham and Isaac’s wells represent each of their unique paths in serving God, ahava and yirah, which are opposites, how can they be the same wells, called by the same names?

The lesson for us, writes RabbiGedaliaShore, is that the two must work together as parts of one total service of God. In tandem, the opposites function together. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The two extremes are resolved into a third entity called emes, meaning truth. This was the particular character strength of Jacob, the third link in the chain of our Forefathers. He was the man of truth, the perfect union of his grandfather’s love and his father’s awe.

And we are their children. We have inherited all three aspects of spiritual greatness from these three spiritual giants, our Forefathers. And the wells that they dug in the world are revealed for us to drink from. Bottoms up!


How Dangerous Is It?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

The story of Yaakov and Eisav unfolds in this week’s parsha. Yaakov is, of course, the studious, serious student who is always involved in Torah and pursuing a life of continuous improvement. Whereas Eisav is an avid hunter, pestering Yaakov and deceiving his father into thinking that he is truly concerned about mitzvos. How did this all begin?

Rashi explains that as they grew up there was nothing substantially different about their behavior. They were both seemingly cut from the same cloth. However, when they turned 13 Yaakov continued his commitment to his studies and Eisav began to serve idols. Is this to say that Eisav became a crazed idolater overnight, or were there prior signs of deterioration before the crash?

Rashi seems ambivalent in his description of the two youngsters. On the one hand, he comments that there was nothing noticeably different about their behavior. On the other hand, he states that people did not discern their nature at such a young age, as if to indicate that had more attention been directed at them Eisav might already have been identified as trouble.

Based upon the above, this scenario could be descriptive of a child growing up in the year 2013 or at any other time in history. Today’s parent is faced with concerns unknown to the parents of yesteryear, but in some ways perhaps comparable to the concerns of parents throughout the ages. Today’s child is exposed to information to a degree unparalleled in the history of mankind. At the ‘flick of a switch,’ a youngster can avail himself of a treasure trove of knowledge and possibly danger. A precious young mind can become tainted and poisoned in a way unknown to our parents and the many generations before them.

However, the potential solution is actually as readily available as it has been for many years, taking safeguards to insure the integrity and purity of the transmission of our legacy. If we recognize that we must guarantee the ongoing transmission of our Torah tradition, then we can hopefully address the needs of our children when they are still at the age of impression. But if we assume that all will be fine and we need not worry so much, then we should not be surprised at the results of our lack of attentiveness to our children’s future.

King Solomon advised the parents of his generation that one should instruct a child according to his way and subsequently, as he matures, he will continue to conduct himself appropriately. The same dictum rings as true today as it did thousands of years ago. Invest in your child’s future, protect his environment, and you will have the building blocks of his future. Of course, without Divine assistance we can never be assured of anything, but with Hashem’s aid, we can attempt the most difficult and intricate tasks and look to Hashem for guidance and success.

Our need to rely upon Hashem to assist us in our educational endeavors does not only apply to the tender faces that surround us. It pertains to us as well. As parents, grandparents, educators, neighbors, friends and fellow citizens of our neighborhoods and towns, positive input is invaluable and a well-directed word of inspiration can be very powerful and impactful. Perhaps we can all do our fair share to help nurture the future Yaakovs and avoid the potential future Eisavs.


Eisav bemoaned his fate stating that tomorrow he would die and therefore he had no need for the eternal rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. When a righteous person contemplates the death will one day befall him, he is motivated to accomplish as much as possible before his demise. The way of the wicked, however, is to abuse life as much as possible, focusing only on ephemeral pleasures.


Joke of the Week
When you’ve seen one shopping center . . . you’ve seen a mall.