Soon we will celebrate Chanukah. Our Festival of Lights begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, and here we are, at the beginning of Kislev…Can’t wait for the light, the joy, the smiles, the community, the eight day long celebration!
But, in ancient times, in the time of the Maccabees, before it was time to celebrate, there was a lot of work to be done. There were hard times and there was a very real struggle. There were battles and there were deeply painful losses along the way. Finally, when it came time to celebrate their victory, the celebration of the Maccabees was all the more meaningful because of all of the dedication and because of all of the work that had to be done to get to that point in time. I liken that dedication and that work to the digging of wells that precedes the joy of having fresh well water to drink when the job is done!
This week in our Torah portion we read about the least well known of our patriarchs, Isaac. We know the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. Yet, we might not remember much else about Isaac’s life. Perhaps that is because, as opposed to his father, Abraham, and to his son, Jacob, Isaac never left the Land of Israel. He traveled less. He stayed closer to home.
What we do know about Isaac was that he dug a lot of wells. The Torah tells us that Isaac re-opened the wells that his father, Abraham, had dug years earlier. In re-opening those wells, Isaac brought new life to abandoned places in the Land of Israel. In the face of a serious drought, Isaac did a lot of work to make the Land of Israel habitable. Despite the jealousy and the animosity of the neighboring cultures, Isaac maintained his presence and his home in the Land of Israel. And, he was blessed. That is reason enough for us to mention Isaac’s name in our Amidah prayers every day!
Today, there are still lots of wells to dig. We have lots of work to do to maintain our connection to the wells of Torah, to the Land of Israel, to our history, and to our vision for the future as it was articulated by our prophets – a future of peace, of justice and of love – for us and for all the people Israel, and for all people everywhere!
May we be blessed on this Shabbat, and throughout the month of Kislev, with a sense of accomplishment, with light, with joy, with community, and with the many gifts of our tradition!
Rabbi Gilah Dror