Chayei Sarah: What is your Be’er?

Parshat Chayei Sarah begins with the passing of Sarah. This tragedy, following the akedah, must have left Yitzchak feeling drained and broken. Perhaps this explains Yitzchak’s passivity in finding his match. How then did Yitzchak find strength and resilience?

Numerous significant events in Yitzchak’s life take place by a be’er – a well. In the first scene, Yitzchak is not present but his proxy Eliezer has come to Aram Nahariyim to find Yitzchak a wife. Eliezer stops at the “be’er ha-mayim,” where the women draw water and where Eliezer prays to God for guidance and finds Rivka. The midrash points out that the well is the meeting place of various biblical couples, representing potential for new life and hopefulness. 

Next, when Rivka travels to Abraham’s home she encounters Yitzchak who had just returned from a place called “Be’er Le-chai Ro’i.” This is also where previously Hagar goes with Ishmael when they were banished and where Hagar prays to God for protection. Noting this, the midrash teaches that Yitzchak was there to bring back Hagar (aka Ketura) to Abraham after Sarah’s death. Here too, the well represents matchmaking and renewal, healing and resilience.

Wells appear again later, when Yitzchak re-digs the wells of Abraham which had been stopped up by the Philistines. The Sefat Emet interprets these wells as representing spiritual sustenance which the avot brought to the world. So Yitzchak, having renewed himself then had the ability to provide inspiration for others. 

Be’er is referred to by Song of Songs as a “well of living waters.” Yitzchak renewed his life and spiritual strength at the be’er, providing a model for us to find our our own metaphoric “wells” —  sources of renewed energy and strength, so we can grow in kedusha and chesed. Shabbat Shalom

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