Abraham's Wells

The journey into Messianic Judaism is much like Isaac’s journey back to the wells of his father Abraham. These original sources have been filled in and concealed by time and hostile Philistines.

The new Abraham's Well International Visitor's Center which opened in 2013 in Beersheva, situated on the banks of the biblical Be'er-Sheva River, at the gates of the Old City. (Image: By Abrahams Well (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Portion Summary & Scripture Reading
Toldot

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Toldot (תּוֹלְדוֹת | Family history)
  • Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
  • Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:21-38

The above audio readings are for the regular weekly Torah portions, but are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. We only provide the regular audio readings when these interruptions occur. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule or the curent year's readings for variations.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 25:19 | The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob
    • Genesis 25:29 | Esau Sells His Birthright
    • Genesis 26:1 | Isaac and Abimelech
    • Genesis 26:34 | Esau's Hittite Wives
    • Genesis 27:1 | Isaac Blesses Jacob
    • Genesis 27:30 | Esau's Lost Blessing
    • Genesis 27:41 | Jacob Escapes Esau's Fury
    • Genesis 28:6 | Esau Marries Ishmael's Daughter
  • Prophets
    • Mal 1:1 | Introduction
    • Mal 1:2 | Israel Preferred to Edom
    • Mal 1:6 | Corruption of the Priesthood

Portion Summary

The sixth reading from the book of Genesis is named Toldot, which means "generations." It is so named because the Torah portion begins with the words "Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac" (Genesis 25:19). Toldot tells us the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau and their struggle for the birthright and blessing of their father, Isaac. We also learn about Isaac's trials and difficulties in the land of Canaan. The portion concludes with Jacob's deception of Isaac in order to procure the family blessing.


Isaac returned to his semi-nomadic mode of life and brought his flocks into the valley of Gerar on the edge of the Negev. As he went, he reopened the wells of his father Abraham. The Philistines had filled in Abraham’s wells as an exercise of their sovereignty, perhaps to discourage semi-nomadic shepherds and herdsman like Isaac from grazing on their territory.

Isaac reopened the wells. The Torah uses four short etiologies to describe how Isaac named four wells. He named one well “Contention” because after he dug it, the herdsmen of Gerar came out and contended with his shepherds. They said, “The water is ours!” He dug a second well and named it “Hostility” because of a dispute with the same herdsmen. He moved further into the Negev, away from Gerar, and dug a third well. He named it “Broad Places” because he had finally escaped the Philistines and had ample space.

It seems as if Isaac named the wells without any thought as to what they had been called in his father’s day, but the Torah says, “He gave them the same names which his father had given them.” This becomes clear in the story about the well of Shibah (Beersheba). He camped at Beersheba (Well of the Oath); he swore a covenantal oath (shevu’ah, שבעה) with the Philistine King. That same day his servants reported a well they had dug. He named it Beersheba, Well of the Oath—the same name Abraham had given it a generation earlier when he made a treaty with the previous Abimelech and Phicol.

The story of Isaac reopening Abraham’s wells indicates that Isaac is the legitimate heir to the Abrahamic legacy. Like Abraham, Isaac sojourned as a stranger in a strange land, without land and water rights.

On another level, the story illustrates the value of returning to the original sources. Isaac could have dug new wells. Instead he chose to restore Abraham’s wells. He could have chosen new names. Instead he chose to use the same names that Abraham had given them.

In a similar way, the biblical path of faith is not one of innovation and novelty. Instead, we find our spirits satisfied drinking from the wells of faith from which our fathers drank. When the Master offered the woman at the well the living water of salvation, he spoke not of literal water, but of salvation—yet He offered that living water to her at Jacob’s well.

The journey into Messianic Judaism is much like Isaac’s journey back to the wells of his father Abraham. These original sources have been filled in and concealed by time and hostile Philistines. The Sabbath has been lost. The holy days have been forgotten. The Torah itself has been, as it were, filled in with earth. We need not dig new wells or create new names. If we will only make the effort to open these original wells up again, we will find that they are as deep and filled with living water as when our fathers first drank from them.


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Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Depths of the Torah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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