It’s our job to delve and clarify all aspects of Maaseh Bereishis through the Torah
“And he moved from there, and he dug another well… and he named it Rechovos, and he said, ‘For now Hashem has widened for us…” (Bereishis 26:22)
The digging of the wells represented the concept of hester, hidden. Avraham dug the wells to remove the externals that block us from connecting to Hashem, to expose and find the light hidden beneath the surface.
This is why the Pelishtim sealed the wells; they didn’t want this spiritual light to shine. They worshipped the physical aspects of this world. Comes Yitzchak and reveals the wells of spirituality again. (Sfas Emes)
Before Succos, I began planning my menus, mentally ticking off various meals, when suddenly I froze mid-thought. Five full days of Chol Hamoed this year? When we’re in complete lockdown?! My boys look forward to Chol Hamoed a whole year. And their idea of fun is the zoo, a safari, boating — anything with action.
Maybe I should bite the bullet and go down the hamster/pet rabbit road again to keep them occupied? But small furry creatures really don’t evoke warm fuzzy feelings in me. I’ve no idea how my boys inherited their snail and puppy dog tail interests.
So how was I going to keep them occupied? No ideas came to mind. Might as well tackle my easier dilemma of feeding a full family a week of festive meals.
The name of this well, Rechovos, comes from the root rachav, wide, which also signifies this idea. We must widen the perspective through which we view the physical world so that we see it through the lens of Torah, which illuminates Maaseh Bereishis. This was the avodah of our Avos.
Apparently I wasn’t alone in my worries. As lockdown intensified, the junior division started brainstorming for fun-filled trips.
“Maybe we can rent a helicopter!” Yitzi was bursting with excitement. “The police aren’t patrolling the sky! We’d go succah hopping on top of the neighbors’ succahs.”
Binyamin quickly squelched that idea. “What if they’re eating a meal and we landed on their sechach? They wouldn’t be yotzei.”
The wilder the idea, the more I realized they weren’t taking this sitting down.
There’s a spark of kedushah that kindles life in everything, but it’s hidden, obscured through the laws of nature. It’s our job to delve and clarify all aspects of Maaseh Bereishis through the Torah, thus revealing Hashem’s essence through this physical world.
A few days before the chag, I saw an advertisement for a new set of encyclopedias of natural wonders. The pictures looked bold and exciting and the facts looked fascinating. Did you know it takes a sloth two weeks to digest its food? Best way to diet!
The first day of Chol Hamoed, I presented the set to the boys. With several volumes, there were enough books to go around, and each was soon engrossed in turning pages and calling out interesting facts and figures.
“A snail can sleep for three years!” yelled Avi. “I told you our snail farm isn’t dead. They’re only sleeping.”
Thrilled with my success, I leaned over Shloime’s shoulder to get a glimpse, too. Uggh. He had the volume on insects. How can my own flesh and blood be thrilled at the sight of a centipede? But a fun fact leaped off the page: A tarantula has eight eyes. That’s more than my own two eyes want to see, thank you.
I picked up a different volume on birds. Sipping my coffee, I was drawn to the vivid colors, the incredible artistic display of brilliant hues, each distinct from the next. I paused at a full-page photo of a macaw in flight — the tops of its wings were a brilliant indigo, the undersides, canary yellow.
My coffee paused en route to my lips. Why, I wondered, did Hashem have to “bother” with so many species? Why so many hues and colors? Why, indeed?! Much food for thought here; it put my Yom Tov menu to shame.
“You know what, Mommy?” Avi looked up from reading, his eyes shining, “I’m learning about the whole world, right here,” he said, tapping the book.
Imagine, without even leaving the four walls of the succah or hiring a helicopter!
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 718)
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