> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Art of Revelation


Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )

by Yoram and Meira Raanan

"Wells," 2005, acrylic on canvas, 80 cm x 200 cm.

Isaac redug the wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, which had been stopped up by the Philistines after Abraham's death... Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found a well of fresh water. The shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's shepherds, claiming that the water was theirs; Isaac named that well Eisek [Challenge] because they had challenged him. They dug another well, and they quarreled over that also. [Isaac] named it Sitnah [Accusation]. He then moved away from there, and dug another well. This time they did not quarrel over it, so he named it Rechovot [Wide Spaces]... (Genesis 26:18-22)

Spread over three panels, this abstract expressionistic painting portrays the conflict and resolution around the wells that our forefathers dug. Those that Abraham had discovered and dug were covered by the Philistines. The Talmud teaches that water is an allusion to the Torah itself; thus the digging of wells symbolizes the effort to reveal and spread the Torah's wellsprings. By re-digging Abraham's wells, Isaac uncovered what had been obscured, ensuring that the knowledge of God's Oneness would keep flowing into the world.

The intensity of this quest is highlighted in the painting by opposing colors, by the contrast between harmonious blues and energetic reds. On the other side of the color scale, the lush shades of purple give a feeling of the spiritual nature of the wells.

Not only did Isaac reopen the original wells, but he also forged ahead, excavating new ones. In the painting, the clear blue well that connects the right and middle panels is surrounded by brooding red and purple shapes that look like large, daunting human figures rising up on either side ? hinting at his conflict with the Philistines, which is reflected in the names Isaac gave the first two wells: Eisek, meaning "strife, or challenge," and Sitnah, "hatred, or accusation."

In contrast to the middle well, which is hemmed in on all sides, is the last well which Isaac dug, over which there was no conflict. Isaac called it Rechovot - "expansiveness." Water gushes from a dark cave-like cistern, flowing from the left panel into the center of the painting, to suggest an ever-expanding space where water (and Torah) can spread and flow freely, unrestricted.

The wells also symbolize the depths that are inside each one of us as well as the artist's search for a purer inner expression.


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