One of the most striking visual images in the Bible is found in the second portion of this week’s parasha. Jacob arrives at Charan. He sees shepherds gathered at a well with a large boulder covering its opening. He notices that they won’t be able to remove the rock themselves, until more shepherds come. Suddenly, his cousin Rachel arrives at the well with her flock, seeking water. On seeing her, Jacob strides forward, single-handedly removes the boulder, and waters Rachel’s sheep.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) makes three observations on this passage.
First, we notice Jacob’s sense of injustice. It was unconscionable that people should be unable to access water from the well when they needed it.
Second, we note Jacob’s sense of alacrity. If there is a job to be done, do it now!
Third, we note Jacob’s exceptional physical strength. He is able to do, by himself, what even the group of shepherds couldn’t manage to do.
It is exceptional for all these qualities to be found together in one person. Collectively, they comprise the resources we need to tackle issues that confront us.
First, we must engage and connect to the moral challenges that arise in society. Second, our response must be prompt. Third, we need to create the resources so that our efforts will make an impact.
A month ago, the BBC carried a news item about a Rabbi Moshe Margarreten from Brooklyn, New York. He was devastated to hear what was happening in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. Like so many of us, he saw footage of people desperately trying to leave Kabul, but flights by Western governments had come to an end. Unlike so many of us, Rabbi Margarreten didn’t simply wring his hands, and say how terrible it was, and then got on with his life. This Skverer Chossid sprang into action. He had founded a humanitarian organization called the Tzeddek Association, which he immediately redirected to rescue refugees. He raised funds, made countless phone calls, arranged flights, visas, accommodation, medical bills etc. for dozens of Afghani nationals who were total strangers.
Like the biblical Jacob, he was outraged at the injustice he saw being played out before him on screen. Like the biblical Jacob, he acted immediately. And, like the biblical Jacob, he has lifted the boulder preventing these people gaining their freedom almost single-handedly.
This man is an inspiration to us all. May we have the courage, commitment and capacity to rise up to the challenges we encounter in our own lives