Monday, November 24, 2014

living with the times

The Alter Rebbe had a motto of “living with the times,” meaning taking the parsha and applying it to the present day and your life.  It is not hard to read current events into this past week’s parsha: you have the conflict between Plishtim and Yitzchak; you have the ridiculous claim on the part of the Plishtim that they treated Yitzchak well when no such thing was true; you have Ya’akov being accused of duplicity by Eisav; you have Ya’akov forced for flee for his life and run from the fry pan of Eisav into the fire of Lavan’s home.  But of all the events in the parsha, the one line that I think most resonates with current events is, “V’tich’hena einav m’re’os.”  We, like Yitzchak, are blind.  We grope in the dark.  So much is unclear to us and the projects that we want to give our blessing to are often the wrong ones (yes, it could be that Yitzchak really knew the truth, but the plain reading of the text is not that way). We hope that like then, it all works out in the end.  

Why does Yitzchak return to the wells of his father only after being banished from the land of the Plishtim?  Is it, as the Netziv suggests, because it was only then that he found himself living again in proximity to those wells and could turn his attention to them?  The Ishbitzer says there is something deeper going on here. Even in the Rishonim (e.g. Ramban), we find that those wells of Avraham carry symbolic significance. Those wells were sources of spiritual nourishment, alluding to the future batei mikdash.  When Yitzchak was kicked out of the land of the Plishtim, he did not only think to himself, "What's wrong with those people?"  He thought to himself as well, "What's wrong with me?"  Yitzchak thought that if the world was not appreciating who he is and what he stood for, it meant that there was some spiritual defect within himself that needed correcting.  And so he returned to his father's wells, to the source of it all, to refortify himself.  

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