Wisdom Like Water

parashas Toldos 5781

“And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham.”

– Genesis 26:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

Meor Eynayim explains, that these wells are symbolic of G-d’s wisdom that flowed during the lifetime of Abraham; yet, after his death, his wells were stopped up by the Philistines, representative of the powers of darkness and ignorance, inasmuch that they also impeded the spread of this wisdom (Meor Einayim, Toldos 19; sefaria.org). Symbolically, when Isaac redug the wells of his father, Abraham, he also reopened the flow of divine wisdom into the world.

The wellsprings of wisdom, must be dug within ourselves, until we reach the place where the source of the wisdom flows. This is the essence of the teaching from Meor Einayim. In reference to the verse, “they have forsaken me, the source of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13), he explains that “Blessed G-d is the source from whom comes the flow of life-force to all living things in all manners” (Meor Einayim, Toldos 18; sefaria.org).

Thus, the source of life continually flows from G-d; yet, as the result of sin, we cause a blockage of that source, and are likened to “broken cisterns.” Consequently, we are unable to connect to our “upper root,” the source above us that nourishes our soul. Additionally, our own ignorance compels us to search elsewhere in this world for the truth; yet, here is much spiritual malaise as the result of sin in this world. Our own path should be to turn from the the darkness, towards the light, so that our souls may be renewed with G-d’s wisdom.

Tradition teaches that preceding the time of Moshiach (Messiah), there will be a decline in spiritual understanding, as a result of sinking to “the fiftieth level of impurity.” However, at the beginning of his reign, “it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:8). Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, explains that in the future, within Jerusalem, a newfound well that will arise of its own accord, will water all of the surroundings. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-RD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Chayei Sarah 5781

“The L-RD, the G-d of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my nativity, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: Unto thy seed will I give this land; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence.”

– Genesis 24:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Therefore, I know that He will send His angel to make Your way prosper, to fulfill His promise to me.”

– Rashbam, sefaria.org

When the time arrived for Abraham to find a wife for his son, Isaac, Abraham sent his trusted servant Eliezar on the mission, back to the land where Abraham had lived. Abraham explained to Eliezer that H’Shem would “send his angel” before him on the journey. When Eliezer arrived, he prayed, “‘O L-RD, the G-d of my master Abraham, send me, I pray Thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham” (Genesis 24:12, JPS 1917 Tanach). In this manner, he prayed in the merit of Abraham, as per the tradition even today, regarding the prayers of the chassidim, in the merit of their Rebbes.


What is fascinating to note, is that within this parashas, there is another mentioning of prayer in the merit of a righteous person. Preceding Eliezer’s return, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming” (Genesis 24:63, JPS 1917 Tanach). Tradition infers that the field where Isaac meditated, i.e., “prayed,” was the field of the cave of Machpaleh, where Sarah was buried. Therefore, commentary speaks of him, praying in the merit of his mother (the matriarch of the Jewish people) for Eliezer’s mission to be successful.


“The angel of the L-RD encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.”

– Psalm 34:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

Vayeira: Commitment

parashas Vayeira 5781

“And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”

– Genesis 22:2, JPS 1985 Tanach

The epitome of the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac was the resolve necessary on the part of Abraham, to follow through with G-d’s commandment to bring his son, Isaac as an offering to the mountain shown to him. This was the tenth and final test of his faithfulness towards G-d, as proved by his obedience to carry out His will. Previously, Abraham trusted in G-d, to follow His directives, despite all of the prevailing challenges, ramifications, and risks involved. Now, he acceded to the command to give up Isaac, his only son, who was destined to carry on the legacy, mission, and message of the One True G-d. Yet, Abraham trusted in H’Shem; perhaps, knowing that He would be able to resurrect Isaac, as implied by the Zohar, whereof the beracha, “Blessed is He who quickens the dead,” is attributed to Abraham, right before he was about to offer up Isaac.

The tension point between Abraham and Isaac occurs when Isaac asks his father, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a [olah] burnt-offering?” Abraham responds, “‘G-d will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.'” Then, the narrative conveys the resolution to Isaac’s concern: “So they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:7-8, JPS 1917 Tanach). The challenge of Isaac was to be in one accord with G-d’s will. As the sages explain, “it was at this moment that Isaac realised that he was to be the offering; even so, he was one within the intentions of his father. They went together to the mizbeach (altar), prepared on Mount Moriah. Rashi comments, “with equal intentions to fulfil the will of the Creator” (sefaria.org). Therefore, let not Isaac’s commitment be diminished, for he willingly went with his father Abraham, up the mountain. “He carried the wood on his back, like a man bearing his cross” (Genesis Rabbah 56).

Lech Lecha 5781

Abraham was the first monotheist. According to the midrash, he arrived at the realisation of G-d’s oneness after a thorough intellectual inquiry. In considering the sun that rules during the day, and the moon at night, he realised neither ruled completely; hence, they must have a Creator who created them. Through this reflection, he raised himself up above the idolatrous beliefs of his countrymen. His newfound belief could only be nurtured, by removing himself from his environmental milieu, so that he would not continue to be influenced by idolatry. So that when G-d called him to lech lecha (literally, go forth to yourself), he was ready to go.

Yet, not until he departed with Sarah, Lot (his nephew), and his entourage of souls (converts) that they had acquired, did H’Shem appear to him in Shechem. The question is asked, why did H’Shem first speak (vayomer) to Abraham, when he was first called (Genesis 12:1), then appeared (vayeira) and spoke to Abraham in Shechem (Genesis 12:7)? Why is there a differentiation noted in these passages? A direct answer is not given. Yet, accompanying the vision, Abraham was granted greater insight into the nature of H’Shem. For this reason, out of gratitude towards H’Shem, Abraham built the mizbeach (altar) there (Zohar; Sheini Luchot HaBerit). I would add that there is a progressive revelation given to Abraham, beginning with his intellectual realisation. Next, he is called directly by H’Shem, then, after he takes that first step on the journey “to a land that I will show you,” H’Shem appears to him.

Abraham’s initial call, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and thy father’s house” (Genesis 12:1), compelled him to separate from his familiar environs. He became known as an “ivri,” mraning, “other side,” because he was from the other side of the Euphrates River. In terms of his belief, he was on one side of the moral sphere, and the world was on the other side. Incidentally, the transliteration of the word, ivri is Hebrew. Abraham was the first Hebrew, thus becoming the progenitor of the Hebrew people, whom later became known as the Israelites. Yet, the blessings given to Abraham would also include all the families of the earth being blessed through him (Genesis 12:2).

Noach 5781

parashas Noach 5781

“And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the L-RD came unto me, saying: Son of man, I have appointed thee a watchman.”

– Ezekiel 3:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

At the end of seven days, the final seven days, before the door to the ark was closed, the first part of Noah’s mission was completed; the judgment was at hand, for the earth would be consumed by the Mabul (Flood). As mentioned in the Zohar, Noah had warned his generation of the impending doom; all the inhabitants of the earth were given the opportunity for teshuvah. This is also denoted by the Targum, wherein it is written, “if they will be converted, it shall be forgiven them” (Genesis 7:14, Targum Yonaton).

Noah’s role to warn mankind, was given to him at the receiving of the commandment from G-d to build an Ark. Up until that time, as the tzaddik (righteous person) of his generation, he must have been disconsolate, witnessing the vast amount of errant ways upon the earth. He was chosen for a mission that would encompass simultaneously warning others, while building the ark that would become a place of refuge for his family, as well as G-d’s creatures from the animal kingdom, in order to be spared by the Flood.

Ostensibly, anyone who was compelled to take his message to heart would have been forgiven. Yet, the question remains, if that was the case, would forgiveness include being physically spared from the Mabul (Flood)? G-d’s forgiveness pertains to the soul – our condition as humans within the realm of creation, is that our soul is spiritual. Therefore, ultimate forgiveness from G-d’s viewpoint, has to do with the part of us that lives beyond our physical selves. The unrepentant on earth became the rephaim (shades) who descended into gehinnom after perishing in the Flood. “The shades [rephaim] tremble beneath the waters” (Job 26:1). If any of them had repented, would their souls not have descended into gehinnon, even though their bodies perished?

Bereishis 5781

B”H


“And the L-rd G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”

– Genesis 2:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

G-d had the foresight to provide a remedy before the ailment that still plagues man today. The first act of disobedience, on the part of Adam and Chava (Eve). Adam, whose Hebrew name means man, and is similar the word adamah (earth), is synonymous with the first man, created from the various elements of the earth, with one exception, his soul as mentioned in Torah. “Then the L-RD G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Eve, whose name means life, yet, as a result of her and her husband’s disobedience, brought death into the world. “‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17, JPS). Even so, Adam decided to focus on his wife’s role in regard to all of humanity. “And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20, JPS).

Many questions may be asked in regard to the cryptic language of Torah; for example, what is the nature of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Targum, a complete rendering of the Five Books as a paraphrase of the original explains well: “But of the tree of whose fruit they who eat (become) wise to know between good and evil, thou shalt not eat” (Sefaria.org).

Sforno notes, that the Tree of Knowledge was placed in close proximity to the Tree of Life in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). Sforno relates these trees to the choice given to mankind: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;” (Deuteronomy 30:19).