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    Free Plowing
    Back in the ‘40s, a
    Jewish guy was
    arrested for
    smuggling guns into
    Israel, then known
    as Palestine. He was taken into one of the
    British prisons. While there, his wife
    writes him a letter decrying what a
    shlemazel he is.
    “Spring is coming and with you rotting
    in jail who will provide? Who will plow
    the soil?”
    The man comes up with an idea. He
    sends an urgent letter to his wife saying:
    “Please, my dear, whatever you do, don’t
    touch the field this year. All my M1 rifles
    are hidden in the field!”
    Sure enough, the letter is intercepted
    and the British take this very seriously.
    The next morning at 6 a.m. there are 200
    armed guards at the man’s fields waiting
    for dawn to break. As the sun rises, they
    attack the field with shovels and rakes,
    leaving no rock unturned.

    When news gets back to the inmate, he
    writes a letter to his wife: “My dear, now
    that they have plowed the field, it is time
    to plant seeds!”
    Enthralled by Wells
    It seems that our Avos, the Founding
    Fathers of Judaism, were enthralled with
    wellsprings. First, the Torah tells us of
    Avraham’s involvement in well-digging
    and his rebuke to the king of the Plishtim
    for allowing his servants to seize one of
    his wells. Avraham performs an elaborate
    ceremony with the king, during which
    the king swears that the well would
    remain in Avraham’s possession.
    But Avraham’s association with wells
    pales in comparison to his son Yitzchak’s
    connection to wells. First, we learn that
    he is a frequent visitor at a spring named
    “Lachai Roei,” where he meets his bride
    and later settles.
    Yitzchak then engages in relentless
    digging to uncover underground springs.
    He reclaims the wells that his father dug
    but that were plugged after Avraham’s

    death. In addition, we read of at
    least another four wells that
    Yitzchak’s servants dig anew. We
    are even told the names Yitzchak
    granted his wells and of the battles
    he fought to hold on to them!
    When the Torah describes in next
    week’s parsha his journey from
    Israel to the East, it tells us that
    “Yaakov looked and behold, a well
    in the field!” Yaakov spends time at the
    well, and it is there that he encounters
    and decides to marry his wife-to-be,
    Why were the fathers of the Jewish
    people so connected to wells? And why
    does the Torah, a book of instruction and
    teachings, a roadmap for life, dedicate a
    significant part of this week’s parsha
    Toldos to discuss the details of Yitzchak’s
    struggles to discover wellsprings?
    Two Water Sources
    In Jewish thought, water represents
    wisdom and inspiration. Just as water
    quenches the thirst of an arid body,
    rejuvenating its spirit and resuscitating
    its energy, the gifts of wisdom and
    enlightenment refresh a soul and
    grant it inspiration and vitality.
    We have two sources of water in our
    world. The waters above the ground—
    oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, and
    rain, and water that flows below the
    earth, covered by grit. These latter
    waters seep out from sand and gravel,
    from amid soluble rocks and cleavage
    planes, as they struggle to emerge
    from beneath the earth that conceals
    One would assume that the restricted
    flow of water fighting to emerge from
    rock and gravel would be inferior to
    the unrestricted and smooth beds of
    water that lay above the ground. Yet
    the reality is that there is something
    uniquely refreshing and clear about
    spring water. The very fact that these
    waters are hidden beneath the ground
    keeps them free from pollution and
    germs and grants them a freshness
    and sparkle not to be found in the
    above-ground waters. Plus, the
    journey through rocks filters and
    refines these waters, so rich in
    minerals and nutrients.
    Two Sources of Inspiration
    The two sources of physical waters

    in our world parallel two sources of
    wisdom and inspiration in our lives.
    There is the wisdom and inspiration
    born above the mess of life’s challenges.
    It comes to lucid people at lucid moments;
    it is straightforward, easy, and smooth.
    These are the waters that emerge from
    the hearts of pristine spiritual individuals;
    men and women unsoiled by filth and
    But then there is the wisdom that
    emerges from life’s grime, from amid
    struggle, pain, and failure; there is the
    clarity and passion born from hearts
    tarnished by toxicity. When a person,
    burdened by the daily pressures of
    earning a livelihood and raising a family,
    bogged down by trauma, fears, and
    anxiety; when a human being troubled by
    his earthly nature and his immoral urges,
    bursts out with a yearning to transcend
    his dirt and connect to Truth — this small,
    restricted flow of water seeping out from
    a sandy and rocky psyche is more
    refreshing and potent than all of the
    serene waters located above the “ground.”
    When a Jew, feeling so distant, engages
    in a Mitzvah, cries out to G-d in yearning,
    or makes one move to excavate the inner
    faith, resilience and idealism that lay
    buried in his or her soul, he or she
    connected to this spring of Divine infinity
    flowing deep below our earthiness. This
    is the most sparkling and refreshing
    water to the soul, to the universe, and to
    This is why the fathers of the Jewish
    people were digging and preserving
    wells. They taught us to fight for and to
    cherish those moments of truth, fleeting
    as they are, and those small sparks of
    idealism, buried within the deep rubble
    of trauma and confusion.
    For this is the purpose of life, to discover
    heaven within the earth, to find your
    springs of joy, confidence, and
    wholesomeness that always flow beneath
    your surface.