In this week’s Torah portion, we read that Yaakov encountered three flocks of sheep, together with their shepherds, by the well. We read, further, that a large stone covered the opening of the well. Yaakov questioned the shepherds why they were delaying in watering their sheep. They replied, “lo nuchal” – we cannot roll the stone by ourselves, it’s impossible, we need to wait for the other shepherds to arrive. Yaakov then promptly approached the well and effortlessly removed the stone. What appeared to these shepherds as a large boulder, appeared as a mere pebble to Yaakov.
Our rabbis teach us that the biblical well represents the forces for growth and accomplishment, the unique talents and innate abilities, within each of us, waiting to be released. The stone represents the difficulties and challenges that we each face in actualising our latent potential.
It is our attitude towards the stone – our perception and evaluation of these difficulties – which determines whether we will be able to roll it out of the way, like Yaakov, or leave it dormant, like the shepherds. The way we perceive a challenge determines the resultant action or inaction. Success or failure.
Yaakov’s strength lay not in his muscles but in his mind. His “never say die” attitude ensured that he would overcome all the trials and tribulations in his life. In next week’s Torah reading, we read of the struggle between Yaakov and the angel of Eisav. This was the ultimate battle for spiritual supremacy; the battle of good versus evil (a battle which still wages today). Rabbi Norman Lamm points out that when Yaakov overcame Eisav’s angel, the Torah records, “vayar ki lo yachol lo”, the angel saw that it could not gain advantage over Yaakov. Remarkably, the same root word, “yachol” is used. Yaakov had never learned to utter the words, “lo nuchal” (it’s impossible). “Surrender” was not in his vocabulary.
We see this remarkable wordplay yet again when Hashem changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael, “Ki sarita im elohim ve’im anashim vatuchal”, you fought with angels and with men and you prevailed.
We are all the b’nei Yisrael, the descendants of Yisrael (Yaakov). Our forefather’s spiritual DNA has been passed down to us through the generations. We, thus, all possess this inherent spiritual fortitude and resilience. For the nation of Israel, nothing is impossible.
On the individual level, may we continue to move the stones that impede our personal development, perceiving them as mere pebbles. Let us remember that no challenge is too great, no task impossible.
On a national level, Bereishis Rabbah (70:9) records another interpretation of the well; the well represents Zion. At a time where Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael are experiencing some of its greatest challenges, may Hashem remove all impediments and usher in the period of Redemption – a time when the waters of Torah and G-dliness will flow freely.