Fully ten pesukim of this week’s parsha are dedicated to relating the saga
of the wells of Yitzchak. The Torah relates how Yitzchak revisited the
wells that his father, Avraham, had used when he lived in that area. When
he saw that the Phlishtim had filled the wells with earth, Yitzchak
instructed his workers to restore them.
The Torah then relates that an additional series of three wells was dug in
the area of Grar. The first two wells became a source of dispute with the
local residents and Yitzchak was forced to abandon them. The third well
was dug and its refreshing waters were enjoyed by Yitzchak and his family
members without any acrimony. Yitzchak gave the wells names that reflected
the events surrounding them. The first and second wells were named ‘Esek’
(translated as contention) and ‘Sitna’ (enmity) respectively, conjuring
images of dispute. The third, however, was named ‘Rechovos’
(spaciousness), with its name denoting the peace that comes with open
areas and uncontested living space.
Clearly, there is deep symbolic meaning in the discussion of these wells
as the Torah devoted precious lines to discuss the events surrounding the
ups and downs of Yitzchak’s search for life-sustaining water.
The Ramban offers a commentary that sheds light into these meaningful
events. Quoting a pasuk in Yirmiyahu (17:13), he maintains that a water
producing well, which symbolizes physical nourishment, represents the
spirituality that emanated from the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, the wells
represent the three Botei Mikdash – past and future. The first Beis
Hasmikdash as well as the second were quarreled over and ultimately
destroyed. However, the third one, may it speedily be built, will be
deemed “Rechovos” and last forever as we will live in unending peace.
The Kli Yakar adds to the insight of the Ramban. He maintains that a
careful reading of these pesukim reveal that in the instance of the first
well, the shepherds were the ones arguing, while the general term noted in
the argument of the second well seems to indicate that all involved
parties were in disagreement.
The Kli Yakar suggests that in the instance of the first Beis Hamikdash
the kings (the shepherds, or leaders) were the ones initiating the
conflict, as the Jews became divided into two kingdoms, Yehudah and
Yisroel, shortly after the death of Shlomo Hamelech. The dispute and the
acrimony caused in the wake of this clash led to the destruction of the
first Beis Hamikdash. The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed due to sinas
chinam (baseless acrimony amongst Jews). In this case, the dispute was
more widespread, as the masses became embroiled in senseless arguments.
This discord is in sharp contrast to the third Beis Hamikdash, where
people will live in tranquility in open spaces.
Avoiding Acrimony… And Developing Ahavas Yisroel
I would like to suggest that there is additional symbolism in the fact
that the disputes involved the destruction of these wells. Plunder in the
battlefield has always been a sad fact of the human experience almost
since the creation of this world. Warring tribes and countries invaded
weaker neighbors and walked off with their spoils. In the individual plane
as well, this occurred throughout time, as stronger people attacked those
unable to defend themselves and unjustly took their possessions. However,
in these instances, there was at least a significant motive for these
actions – the acquisition of wealth.
In the case of the destruction of these wells, no such intention was
evident (although Rashi does offer an explanation for these actions). All
one sees is the senseless destruction of hundreds of man-hours of effort
in a matter on moments – with little or no gain for the one recklessly
wielding the shovel. The sad events surrounding the blocking of Yitzchak’s
wells seem to be the perfect metaphor for the baseless and fruitless
hatred that destroyed our precious Beis Hamikdash and sent us into the
harsh reality of galus for nearly two thousand years … and counting.
It is so difficult to build and so easy to destroy. And ultimately those
who destroy others eventually destroy themselves as well.
The World Trade Center took thousands of people many years to build.
Nineteen people were able to destroy it in a few hours.
It takes only a moment to deeply hurt someone’s feelings. And sometimes it
can take a very long time to undo the hurt we may cause, purposely or even
inadvertently – sometimes even to the ones closest to us.
This seemingly trivial incident of the wells of Yitzchak carries a
powerful and eternal lesson. Build and never destroy. Support and never
hurt. Live with middos tovos, tolerance and understanding – and help bring
the ‘Rechovos’ of the third Beis Hamikdash.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.