PARSHAT TOLEDOT by Daniel Pinner

“And Isaac dug anew the water wells which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and which the Philistines had blocked up… And Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and they found there a well of flowing water. And the shepherds of Gerar fought Isaac’s shepherds, saying: The water is ours” (Gen. 26:18-20).

We have a fundamental principal that the deeds of the forefathers are a portent for the children. Isaac decided to dig his first well in the Nachal (valley, revine), symbolizing his return to his nachala (inheritance) – and the well that he dug was claimed by the Philistines. The irony is glaring: Isaac’s father had originally dug this well, and the Philistines had blocked it. And now, when Isaac restored the well, the Philistines claimed it as their own. Not only had they no claim over the land as a whole, they also had no claim over the well itself: Abraham and Isaac had dug it, the Philistines had sabotaged it. They could not even claim that the water was theirs: it was “flowing water”, by its very definition – ownerless. Nonetheless, the Philistine shepherds “fought Isaac’s shepherds, saying: The water is ours”. According to the Targum Yonatan, their claim was deeper yet: “The water is ours, and has been granted us by Heaven”.

What a perfect paradigm this is of Isaac’s descendants’ return to their Land, and the response of those who claim to be the descendants of the Philistines! We built the Land up, the Arabs sabotaged it – and now claim it as their inheritance!

Isaac’s second well equally caused strife. But with the third well, Isaac learned the lesson of how to make peace with the Philistines: “He dug another well, and they did not fight over it. And he called it Rehovot (wide-open spaces), saying: Now Hashem has enlarged our space, and we are fruitful in the Land” (Gen. 26:22).

If we would but spread throughout our Land, and not live in cramped cities; if we would but spread throughout the Land – not just within “Little Israel”, but throughout Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Golan, Hashemite-occupied Transjordan and Syrian-occupied Bashan; if only we would be fruitful and fill the Land with Jews – that is the way to peace.

Nevertheless, Isaac left Gerar (in the Gaza Strip) for Beersheba, and shortly thereafter, the Philistine leader, Avimelech, came to him to request a peace treaty (Gen. 26:26-31). The Targum Yonatan explains the background: “When Isaac left Gerar, the wells dried up and the trees no longer produced fruit” (Targum Yonatan 26:26). According to the Midrash, “robbers broke into his {Avimelech’s) house, cackling throughout the night” (Gen. Rabbah 64:8). How many of us remember that the Arabs used to call Gush Katif “Nachs el-Ard” (the accursed land), because no water flowed there and nothing grew in the earth – until the Jews arrived. And the self-same earth that two years ago was producing fruits and vegetables of the highest quality, is today barren, the trees of Gush Katif no longer produce fruit, the wadis have dried up, and the only thing that is flourishing there today is violence.

And the final lesson of the parsha: The Philistines and all the other goyim in the Land could not drive Jacob out of the Land. Ultimately, when he fled from Eretz Israel into Exile, it was only out of fear of his brother Eisav (Gen. 27:41 until end of parsha). From the Arabs, we have little to fear: They can inflict no more than pinpricks. Only our brothers can drive us out of Gaza, out of the Shomron, and – G-d forbid – out of Israel altogether.


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