Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Toldot
To dedicate this lesson

How Can Jealousy and Hatred be Turned into A Desire for Connection?


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Yitzchak dwelled in Gerar (Bereishit 26:6). His father dwelled in this place too, and established a covenant with Avimelech the king of the Philistines (Bereishit 20-21). The events that took place with Avraham are parallel to the events that take place here with Yitzchak (and so too, with the events that take place with Avraham and Pharaoh in Egypt- Bereishit 12). Yitzchak becomes very successful, "And the man became great, and he continued to accumulate wealth until he was greatly wealthy." The Philistines became jealous ("And the Philistines became jealous of him"- 26:14) and expel him. Yitzchak travels to Beer Sheba (26:23).

And then there is a surprise. Avimelech the king of the Philistines and a dignified delegation ("A group of his friends") and his general (Phichol) come to Yitzchak. Yitzchak is astonished "why have you come to me, for you hated me, and you sent me away from you". They want to make a covenant with Yitzchak and they say, "if you shall do no harm to us, as we have not harmed you, and as we have only done good for you". Is this really true? Did they only do good with him?

Avraham formed a covenant with his father, the first Avimelech, the king of the Philistines. In the covenant it is stated, "If you shall deceive me, my children or my grandchildren"- also a covenant for future generations. The second Avimelech (and perhaps the same Avimelech) overtly violates the covenant:

He seizes Rivka.
He takes from Yitzchak the wells that Avraham dug. Some he stops up and some he takes.
He expels Yitzchak from Gerar.
Is this called "only doing good with you"? The only good thing that he did with him was that he didn’t kill him, rather dealing with him in a disparaging way. And why did they come anyway? They say, (26:28): "And they said ‘we certainly saw that Hashem was with you, so we said may there be an oath between us and form a covenant with him’". What did they notice at this time? Already when Yitzchak was with them he had the blessing of Hashem: He became exceedingly wealthy, with herds and flocks. They already were jealous of him then. Why didn’t they notice that he had the blessing of G-d then?

It seems they perceived two things: Firstly, apparently when Yitzchak left, the place become more desolate, and was not fruitful (so says Targum attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel).[1] However, there is an additional point.They see that even when Yitzchak moves to another place, he is successful! The blessing of Yitzchak is not bound by location. It is certain that Gerar does not independently receive blessing. The blessing of Yitzchak is the blessing of Hashem.

Yitzchak had the ability to criticize them. He could have raised the bad things they did to him and the lies they told him. However, Yitzchak doesn’t do that. Yitzchak doesn’t act like he does for political reasons, for he says things as they are even if it was "politically" convenient to remain silent or lie. For example, when Avimelech and his entourage arrive, Yitzchak tells them point-blank, "Why did you come, for you hate me…", and when Yitzchak figures out that Yaakov took the blessings through trickery, he could have remained silent and not told Eisav, but he says to frankly to Eisav, "You brother came in trickery and took your blessings". And he explains afterwards everything that he had given to Yaakov, as if there is nothing left for Eisav. This causes bitterness between the brothers, which Yitzchak could have avoided. However, the strict attribute of justice within Yitzchak causes him to say the simple truth. Why does Yitzchak accept their words at face value? Why isn’t he frank with them.: How can you tell me you have only done good to me, when you assaulted me, took my wife, stole the wells, expelled me, and violated the covenant of peace you concluded with my father!

It seems that Yitzhak would not have agreed to make a covenant with him unless he knew they honestly desired it and there was a practical benefit. Yitzchak would not have formed a covenant with them if their objective would have been to acquire the strip of land in the Land if Israel. However, after they come and say that they have seen the blessing of G-d in his handiwork, Yitzchak is willing to make a covenant. Perhaps Yitzchak specifically waited for this moment. At this point they understand that to cleave to Yitzchak is to cleave to the Divine Presence that is found within him. In the merit of the blessing of Hashem and in the merit of Yitzchak’s encouraging behavior, the jealousy of the Philistines was turned into a desire to cleave to Hashem.

Even the biggest haters sense the greatness of Am Yisrael. They are jealous of it. They try to destroy it. However, there will come a day when all inhabitants of the universe will recognize that the blessing of G-d exists within Am Yisrael, as well as those who gather to them. They will know that the existence of Am Yisrael does not damage the world, just the opposite, it adds to it and brings success and blessing.

Immediately, on that very day, Yitzchak merits to dig another well. According to the Radak this was even before Avimelech left him and according to the Ramban and the Rashbam it was after they left him. He calls this well "Sheva (seven". The simple meaning is that it was the seventh well (three wells Avraham dug, and Yitzchak three: Esek, Sitna, Rechovot. And now, the seventh well.) Rashi explains that he calls it Sheva regarding the oath (shevua) that they took for the covenant. Just like Avraham called Beer Sheva its name, as "for there they made an oath (nishbeu)".

It is conceivable that if we understand the name as referring to the oath and the covenant, the well was dug when Avimelch was still present (like the Radak). He saw how again the blessing of G-d remains with Yitzchak, and at this moment Yitzchak calls the well its name regarding the oath. If we understand that the name is "Seven"- seven wells, it is logical that the event took place after Avimelech departed (like the Rashbam and Ramban). Yitzchak dug three wells until now, and the final well finishes on a high, "And he dug another well and they did not dispute it, and he called it Rechovot, and he said, ‘For now Hashem has expanded us our and we have multiplied in the land’. Why does he need another well? The number seven, when found in the Torah, indicates wholeness. Yitzchak digs the seventh well, because not only is he blessed by Hashem, but everyone realizes that G-d’s blessing rests upon Yitzchak.

G-d’s blessing upon Yitzchak emerges from the merit of our forefathers, and especially from the holiness of Yitzchak, from his morality, from his lofty character, led to the situation whereby everyone who sees Yitzchak senses this blessing, and understands that the Divine Presence rests upon Israel. Similarly, the Rambam says (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:11) that his is a sanctification of G-d’s name:

When a sage is particular with himself, speaks pleasantly with others, his interactions are agreeable to others, he receives them pleasantly, he is disparaged by them and does not disparage them in return, he honors them – even though they disrespect him – he does business honestly, and does not frequently accept the hospitality of boors or sit with them, and at all times is seen only studying Torah, wrapped in tzitzit, crowned with tefillin, and carrying out all his deeds beyond the letter of the law – provided he does not remove himself too far from normal living and thus become isolated – to the extent that all praise him, love him, and find his deeds attractive – such a person sanctifies God’s name. The verse (Yishayahu 49:3): "And He said to me: ‘Israel, you are My servant, in whom I will be glorified’" refers to him.

Even today, our enemies try to destroy, burn the land, and kill us. They do not understand that without Am Yisrael’s presence, there is no blessing in the place. We all know how desolate the land was 100 years ago. We all know how Gush Katif is desolate today. G-d’s blessing in the land comes when Am Yisrael is found there (and as Chazal say regarding "and the enemies will desolate it"- see Rashi there). In the future, all our enemies will recognize and know that the fact that Am Yisrael is in their land is what draws G-d’s blessing for everyone. Then they will form a covenant with us, not out of a desire to take over the land, but from a desire to follow Am Yisrael, to be a ger toshav (resident alien) sheltered under the wings of the Divine Presence.

[1]And it says there (Bereishit 26:28): "They said that Hashem helped him, that in his merit we had all that good and when he left the land dried up and the trees did not give forth their fruit."
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