November 19, 2020 / 3 Kislev, 5781 • Do You Dig?!
Issue 641
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Digging Deep

Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long Rebecca and

Isaac remained childless.

According to the Midrash, Rebecca was physically unable to

bear children. It would take a miracle for this to happen. This

is why Isaac and Rebecca pleaded to G-d so often and with

such great intensity. Isaac would stand in one corner praying,

and Rebecca would stand in the other, not giving up until

finally, their prayers were answered.

Soon after they were blessed with children, Isaac and his

family relocated to Gerar, where he farmed the land and dug

wells. He reopened the wells of Abraham and dug his own.

He gave the wells names and struggled to retain control over


Praying and well-digging have much in common. For both,

one needs the qualities that Isaac epitomized: restraint, discipline,

faith, and introspectiveness.

The word used to describe Isaac’s intense pleading with G-d

is vaye'atar. The Talmud associates this word

with a pitchfork. Just as the pitchfork overturns the grain

on the threshing floor, so, too, the prayers of the righteous

overturn negative decrees.

The Hebrew word usually associated with praying is lehitpallel.

It has the same root as to judge and to join together.

The reflexive form is used, which signifies that a person who

is praying is meant to judge himself and acquire a new perspective,

while strengthening his bonds with G-d.

To pray means to step out of the many conflicts and fragmentations

of our lives. To gain a true judgment about ourselves,

our relationship to G-d and our world. To struggle to

control our distracting thoughts and our inner turmoil.

To pray means to dig deep within ourselves. To clear away

dirt, rocks, and debris. To have faith that eventually, we will

find water. Deep down beyond our self-centered ego lies the

fresh flowing waters of our Divine core. Prayer helps us become

reunited with that part of our selves.

To pray means to discover a fresh perspective about who we

are and our reality. The person who begins prayers should

be very different from the person who concludes them. You

began as someone ensnared in your own self-centered reality,

feeling arrogant and entitled. By digging deep into your

emotional and spiritual self, you emerge as a humbler individual,

aware of and grateful for all the good G-d has given.

In fact, perhaps this is how prayer actually effects change.

The person who starts praying may not merit what he or she

desires. But the newly transformed, far more spiritual individual concluding prayers may be worthy of what he or she

seeks—and use it to further spiritual growth.

In this week’s portion, Isaac teaches us that to pray is to dig.

Each one of us can get out our pitchforks and dig.

Let’s dig deeply.

—from Shabbat/deLights