My friend’s daughter Jessica recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, in which she became ‘of age’ in Judaism to keep commandments and embrace personal accountability for the obligations and observances of her faith. I am inspired to share her reflections today…
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.
16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 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.”
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
I was privileged to read Jessica’s D’var Torah (her message) from the portion of the Torah from Genesis 26.
It is inspiring to consider the reflections of a young person on God’s word. As God blessed Isaac, he became the envy of the Philistines, who filled up the wells Isaac’s father had dug. He was encouraged to move on and take his wealth and success elsewhere. Envy can be a powerful motivator. It can make people do things which are hurtful, and sometimes we take their actions and behaviour so personally that we think we are the problem.
On the contrary, Isaac was the object of God’s blessing, and others turned his blessing in to a negative. Jessica applied this story to her own life and how she was able to overcome adversity as a young person. This is what inspired me. We know that we cannot control what other people do, yet we can control how we respond.
All that I was taught was that Isaac was a bad parent because he picked favourites, and that Jacob tricks Esau. When we think of this portion we think of fighting siblings and parents that pick favourites, not the continuing of tradition. Why do we only remember the bad? In real life, it is also easier to remember the negative and not the positive.
Jessica’s D’var Torah
Isaac understood the blessing of God, and he re-dug the wells of his father. He was committed to the traditions and continuing to honour God and his father in the land. And when there are disputes about the wells and the water, he kept moving and kept digging. Eventually, he dug a well and no one wrangled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
God will give us room. When we respond to God in faith, he leads us into his blessing and gives us room to flourish. Just like Jessica is flourishing in her understanding of God’s purpose and plan for her.
To see the good in things you have to look at the whole picture. Most of the time, it takes perseverance, confidence and most of all lots of positivity. This Torah portion teaches us that you aren’t always given the positive. Sometimes you have to look for it. In the coming week, we should try to look for the good in all things.
Jessica’s D-var Torah
In 2Samuel 22, and then again in David’s Psalm 18, he speaks of how from the depths of persecution and trial, God led him out of it and into a spacious place. Just as Jessica says, ‘it takes perseverance, confidence and most of all lots of positivity.’ We must trust the God who has us in his hand.
Thanks for inspiring me to be strong and courageous in my own circumstances, Jessica.
Mazel Tov and Chazak u’varuch!