ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Be'er Sheva or Shava

הרב זכריה טובי
ראש הכולל

The book of Bereishit is mainly about the patriarchs, although it is unequally weighted. Many chapters are written about Avraham and Yaakov, but only a few actually deal with Yitzchak. Even in these chapters, only one actually describes something that Yitzchak himself did. This is the chapter about the wells that Yitzchak dug. Yet, even these wells are not an original creation. Instead: "Yitzchak dug anew the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Avraham his father and the Pelishtim had stopped up after Avraham's death; and he called them by the same names that his father had called them." (Bereishit 26:18) Why did the Torah feel it necessary to write about this, and what did Yitzchak add that was not already there with Avraham?

Upon closer observation we notice some differences between Avraham and Yitzchak. The Torah writes in the meeting between Avimelech and Avraham: "Avimelech said ... 'G-d (Elokim) is with you in all that you do.'" (Bereishit 21:22) The name, Elokim, which means Omnipotent, indicates a universal guidance of the entire world, and not just of Avraham.

Avimelech also asks Avraham to swear to him: "That you will not deal falsely with me nor with my son nor with my grandson" (Bereishit 21:23) – for three generations. They make a covenant, and then Avraham builds an altar and names the place Be'er Shava (well of oath) – named after the oath. However, in the end, the covenant did not last even a single generation!

This process is reversed with Yitzchak. First he returns to dig the wells that Avraham his father had dug, and then he builds an altar (before making the covenant). "They said: 'We have surely seen that Hashem has been with you ... Let us make a covenant with you.'" (Bereishit 26:28) Chazal teach: "Seen" – in hiding, "surely seen" – revealed. With Yitzchak, as opposed to Avraham, there was a revealed individual Divine Providence. The Pelishtim saw that Hashem was with him. All their wells had dried up, whereas Yitzchak's wells had supernatural success: "Yitzchak sowed in that land, and in that year he reaped a hundredfold; thus had Hashem blessed him." (Bereishit 26:12) Hashem's presence was seen by everyone to be with him. Therefore, they came and asked: "Let us make a covenant with you." Yitzchak names the city Be'er Sheva (well of seven), not after the oath but after the number seven.

Why did Yitzchak change the name that Avraham had given on account of the oath? What did Yitzchak add to the name, that his father had not?

In order to explain this, we note that a "well" is water that already exists below the ground. The water is simply revealed by removing the dirt that lies above it, but nothing new is created. The water that is revealed had already existed previously. Avimelech and his servants were jealous because they thought that Avraham possessed more then they did. When a person knows that his friend has something that he does not, he tends to be jealous of him. However, when he knows that what his friend possesses is not actually his –there is no reason to be jealous.

This is the difference between Avraham and Yitzchak. With Avraham, Elokim, the universal G-d, was evident. The Pelishtim did not see Hashem's existence specifically with Avraham, and therefore he made a "peace agreement" with them through an oath. Yet, it did not last because so long as there is jealousy – there can be no peace, and even an oath will not help. However, with Yitzchak the Pelishtim saw that Hashem was with him: "We have surely seen that Hashem has been with you." Everything was from Hashem; Yitzchak himself did not possess anything. All the bounty was Divine bounty and therefore they had no reason to be jealous. Here a peace agreement was made that was not violated. "He named it Shivah; therefore the name of this city is Be'er Sheva until this very day." (Bereishit 26:33)

In Kabala, the seventh sphere is "majesty" – everything belongs to Hashem. "[The person] has nothing of his own." All belongs to the King of kings, Hashem. Be'er Sheva, the seventh well, is the symbol of majesty. This reality is eternal, "until this very day." When the Pelishtim realized that everything that Yitzchak had came from Hashem they realized that there was no reason to quarrel, no reason to be jealous, and the covenant remained eternal. Therefore, when Yaakov Avinu descended to Egypt: "Yisrael set out with all that he had and he came to Be'er Sheva where he slaughtered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchak." (Bereishit 46:1) He did not sacrifice at Avraham's Be'er Shava, but rather at Yitzchak's, because his will last forever.

Even in our generation a "peace agreement" will not last until the gentiles realize that: "We have surely seen that Hashem has been with you." Once they witness Hashem's presence watching over Am Yisrael they will stop persecuting us. Then the pasuk will be fulfilled: "Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine." (Yeshaya 60:3)

 

 

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