He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” — Genesis 26:22
The Torah portion for this week, Toldot, which means “offspring,” is from Genesis 25:19—28:9, and the Haftorah is from Malachi 1:1–2:7.
In this week’s reading, we come across a minor, yet well-detailed incident in Isaac’s life that is very easy to skip over with little consequence. After Isaac was asked to leave Gerar, he settled in the valley of Gerar where he reopened three wells originally dug by his father Abraham. Scripture tells us the names given to each well and the fact that the locals argued with Isaac over the first two wells, but left the third one alone. Why are we given all these details and what is the message for our lives?
As Scripture tells us, Isaac named the first well Esek, which means “dispute,” because of the dispute that ensued over ownership of the well. The second well was named Sitnah, which the Jewish sages translate as “harassment,” because the uncovering of that well led to the harassment of Isaac and his servants. Finally, the third well was named Rehoboth, which means “expansiveness.” As Isaac said, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
Notice how Isaac didn’t react to the lack of dispute and harassment over this third well by thanking God for peace. Rather, he thanked God for abundance, for expansiveness, for space, and for the ability to thrive. This is because peace leads to prosperity. The absence of arguments allows everyone to flourish.
The Talmud, Judaism’s Oral Tradition, makes this interesting statement: “When love was strong, we could have made our bed on a sword blade; now that our love has grown weak, a bed of 60 cubits is not large enough for us.” When there is love between two people, the edge of a sword has enough space for a comfortable bed. However, when two people live in strife, then even the largest bed in the world is not big enough for the two of them. There is always enough for everyone when there is peace. However, when there is animosity, no one wins and everyone is left lacking.
It’s time that we change our culture from one of competition to one of collaboration. We need to support one another, work together, and help each other. Where there is strife, we need to pursue peace. Because when we are at peace with each other, everyone wins.
This week, let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Make amends or try gently to bring two quarrelling parties together. Whether in the home, in the workplace, or the global arena, peace and cooperation have to be the supreme values. Peace leads to prosperity and success for us all.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President