by Tzvi Schnee
29 Chesvan 5780
“And he went up from thence to Beer-Sheba. And the L-RD appeared unto him the same night, and said: ‘I am the G-d of Abraham thy father. Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for My servant Abraham’s sake.’ And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the L-RD.”
– Genesis 26:23-25, JPS 1917 Tanach
Isaac left Gerar, and went to Beer Sheba, where Abraham had entered into a covenant with Abimelech (Genesis 21:31). Isaac’s refuge seemed transient to him, inasmuch that he feared further antagonism from the Philistines. Yet, H’Shem appeared to him that very night, assuring Isaac of His protection. “Fear not, for I am with thee.”
In response, Isaac built an altar there, “and called upon the name of the L-RD” (see above). After pitching a tent there, his servants dug a well. Shortly afterwards, Abimelech showed up, as might be expected within the framework of the overall narrative (see Genesis 26:13-22).
Isaac questioned him, “Why do you come to me, seeing you hate me, and have sent me away from you?” (Genesis 26:27, JPS). Abimelech recognised by now that Isaac was also blessed, like his father Abraham; so that the quarrels would cease, he offered to renew the covenant that had previously been made with Abraham.
According to Targum Yonatan, Abimelech’s motivation stemmed directly from the nature of his own provisions suffering, after Isaac had formerly left his lands. Therefore, he attributed the decline in his sustenance from the earth, as a result of his contention towards Isaac. This also seems to be in accord with the teaching that a tzaddik (righteous person) brings benefits beyond counting to others in the place where he lives.