Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Or a combination of both?
Our forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, illustrate these two personality types. Abraham, the extrovert, is associated with the characteristic of chesed. As the father of outreach, Abraham’s kindness was directed externally. He declared that there was one G-d and would travel from city to city gathering people and proclaiming G-d’s existence. On the other side of the scale is his son Isaac, the introvert, to whom is attributed the trait of gevurah, or strength, expressed as being self-disciplined and reserved. His Divine service had an inward focus.
So, who was Isaac? The broad facts are: He was the longest lived of the patriarchs, the only one who never left Canaan, the only one whose name was never changed, the only one to marry only one woman, and the only one whose father never blesses him – but also the first to bless his own children.
Growing up in the shadow of a charismatic parent can be hard. And yet, it is Isaac who holds it all together, and is responsible for transmitting Judaism to the next generation. This is reflected in his task of digging wells. Digging a well involves removing layers of earth to uncover hidden sources of life-giving water. Spiritually, “digging” refers to the work of reaching one’s inner essence and tapping into it as a source of inner strength. Each of us has a neshamah. Isaac’s goal was to activate these inner potentials and use them to initiate positive change. In the few stories we know about Isaac, he was never the driver of the tale. And yet, he sets about consolidating the foundations established by his father.
Both Sedra Noach and Sedra Toldot begin with the words: Eleh toldot, “These are the chronicles/generations/descendents of….” Sedra Noach is given that name because it signifies the events that happened during Noach’s lifetime. By contrast, Sedra Toldot, which focuses on the chronicles of Isaac’s life, communicates the importance of creating a legacy for the future.
When we dig wells, we turn inward to reveal what is hidden. When we tap into our inner strengths, we can create the legacy that we would want to pass on to generations. Are there positive aspects of yourself that are not readily noticeable, but that you would find if you dig deep enough?
In loving memory of my father, another Yitzhak ben Avraham, whose Yahrzeit is on 7 Kislev.