Isaac does not do too much in his life. He is considered to be the most passive of all our ancient anecestors---male or female. A follower more than a trail blazer like his father. Not too aggressive. Giving the benefit of the doubt. A soft power kind of guy.
He might not be an alpha male, that sweet patriarch Isaac. But his way in the world speaks to me in this week's parasha. This week we read that Isaac goes back to wells that his father dug during his journeys. He found them and opens them up. He digs them open. Finds the water. The source. Life!
Isaac opened the wells up to life, so that their life giving waters could now serve his generation. But his path towards bringing these life giving waters, his inheritance, to life is not so easy. No silver platter for Isaac.
Isaac opened one well, a well of his inheritance, and his neighbor says nope. His neighbor says, "I do not agree to you using that well." He named that well "strife." And then he opens another and again his neighbors said no. Not into you reopening that well either! This well also gets a new name indicating that places, that water source, as a place of conflict.
Isaac was not deterred, nor was he aggressive towards his neighbors. He just kept digging. Discovering and digging. Until he dug a new well, not one left by his father Abraham, but one that was close by. Isaac discovered a new source of water, a new well of vitality for the Family, the newly emerging tribe that would become Israel. All by himself. Flying solo. He is forging his own path, a new path, and he is doing his way. The Isaac way.
In this week's parasha we see Isaac, a true follower, work hard to create not just wealth, resources and power but to create peace. He used his muscles-- his wisdom muscle, his faith muscle, his compassion and passion muscles, to work towards establishing himself in peace. He moved away from conflict and found new sources of life that are rooted in peace.
The final well he digs, the well that is acceptable to all parties involved, is called rehovot. This name means an "expansive place." Isaac not only added to the material wealth of his line and built upon his father's wealth. No--Isaac did so much more. He added to the spiritual heritage of our people. Here Isaac shows a different type of power and strength. In our sacred text this style of strength is called OZ: a strength you get from God, a strength that gives you the ability to endure and be fed by a force you cannot know or name. In the Song of the Sea, the first price of liturgical poetry in our tradition, found in the book of in Exodus, the Israelites sing on the freedom side of the sea. They sing these words of praise: Ozi v'zimrat yah! God is my spiritual strength and my song.
Isaac is moved and motivated by OZ-spiritual strength.
Look, friends, Isaac did not have a partner in peace at the well digging sites. He had an adversary. He had to know that. And he chose the non-violent path. Why?
Perhaps because he knew that there is something more important in this world that being right, or ownership, or rights or status and stature in society. Isaac knew a higher authority intimately. Remember that he was the lamb on the alter not so long ago. Isaac had a special kind of faith, one that not even his father possessed. Isaac was gifted with an easy-going faith. He was gifted with a deep inclination toward peace and harmony. He was gifted with super strong soft power-the kind of strength that leads to peace making!
This is OZ. Being strong but not a fighter. Working towards peace using the soft skills of mindfulness, compassion and non-violence. There are a lot of different ways to get things done in this world. Not every situation is ripe for an Isaac. But our goal, our challenge as a people living in the light of Torah and carried daily by the merits of ancestors, is indeed to cultivate our Isaac. We need to cultivate both OZ/spiritual strength and peace. This is one important way we can serve our people, our families, our neighborhoods and our Source.
Adonai give OZ/ spiritual strength to your people Israel,
Adonai please bless your people with Shalom.
Isaac does not do too much in his life. He is not the patriarch who brings fireworks to the reading of our biblical text. Most of the time things happen to Isaac. But in our parasha this week. This is his shining moment. And he serves us well. In Toldot we learn that his life, his path, his quiet way is yet another pathway and guide for how we can live. Dare is at how we SHOULD live?