by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – November 24, 2011
In the Torah section of Toldot, we read of three wells that Isaac dug. We are told that these were originally dug by his father Abraham, but later filled in by others. Now, Isaac took the opportunity to reopen what his father first initiated.
In his commentary on the Torah (Bereshit 26:20), R. Moshe ben Nachman, otherwise known as Ramban or Nachmanides makes an intriguing point: “Scripture gives a lengthy account of the matter of the wells when in the literal interpretation of the story there would seem to be no benefit nor any great honor to Isaac in that he and his father did the identical thing.”
To explain the significance of this incident, Ramban goes on to say: “There is a hidden matter involved here since Scripture’s purpose is to make known a future matter. …He called the first well Esek [Contention], which is an allusion to the First Temple, concerning which the nations contended with us and instigated quarrels and wars with us until they destroyed it. The second well he called Sitna [Enmity], a name harsher than the first. This alludes to the Second Temple, which has indeed been referred to by this very name, ‘In the beginning of his reign, they wrote enmity against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem’[Ezra 4:6]. And during its entire existence they were a source of enmity unto us until they destroyed it and drove us from it into bitter exile. The third well he called Rechovot [Spacious]. This is a reference to the Future Temple, which should be speedily built in our days, and it will be done without quarrel and feud. …’And we shall be fruitful in the land’ [which is mentioned with regards the third well] signifies that all peoples will come to worship G-d with unanimous consent.”
So Ramban suggests that the verses regarding the wells dug by Abraham and Isaac are more than they seem on the surface. They are actually a peek into the future, a future blissful era, may it come speedily in our time.