Filled with Emptiness – Parashat Vayeishev

November 23, 2018 at 5:09 AM , , ,
“…Now the pit was empty, there was no water in it….” – Bereishit 37:24

״….והבור ריק איו בו מים…״ – בראשית לז, כד

Do the words “now the pit was empty” not imply that the pit contained no water? For what purpose did the Torah add “there was no water in it”? To teach that it was only empty of water, but there were snakes and scorpions in it. —Rashi


Our Sages teach that water is a metaphor for Torah (Bava Kama 17a). In view of that, we can understand why the presence of snakes and scorpions (in the pit where Yosef was thrown) is hinted in the Torah with the superfluous phrase “there was no water in it,” instead of the verse stating explicitly that the pit was inhabited by these harmful creatures.

In doing so, the verse is emphasizing that, in a spiritual sense, the appearance of snakes and scorpions in one’s life is not “in addition to” a void of water, Torah; their presence is synonymous with this emptiness of Torah and its inescapable consequence. The vacuum that is created when one’s schedule is deficient in Torah study does not remain neutral. When “there is no water in it,” the void automatically fills with “snakes and scorpions,” ideas that are incompatible with a holy lifestyle and hostile to it.

The Baal Shem Tov (Tzavo’as Hariva”sh, 76) similarly explained the expression said in the Shema, “וְסַרְתֶּם וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹקִים אֲחֵרִים – and you turn astray and you serve other gods (Devarim 11:16).” Turning astray and serving other gods are inseparable acts. “The moment you separate yourself from G-d,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “you immediately worship idolatry. There is no middle ground.”

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 15, p. 324 – 325


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