A young man meets a beautiful young girl at a well and she gives water to his camels. This is a familiar motif in B’reshit.
Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, is charged with the mission of finding a match for his son, Yitchak. When Eliezer sees Rivka at a well and she waters his camels, he immediately knows that she was sent to him by G-d as the perfect match for Yitchak.
The act of watering the camels is symbolic; it tells us that Rivka is nuturing, kind, and compassionate. She will be a good Jewish mother to her children and to Am Yisrael.
The well motif in this week’s parsha story differs from that first scene because Yaakov and Rachel—who will go on to create the Jewish people—actually meet. And unlike the story of Yitchak and Rivka, where Rivka is chosen by Eliezer, Yaakov and Rachel uncover the potential of their relationship at the well together. Their story is unique because Yaakov actively uncovers the rock that was covering the well in Rachel’s presence.
“There before his eyes was a well in the open. Three flocks of sheep were lying beside it, for the flocks were watered from that well. The stone on the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the stone would be rolled from the mouth of the well and the sheep watered; then the stone would be put back in its place on the mouth of the well.“ B’reshit 29:2-3
וירא והנה באר בשדה, והנה-שם שלושה עדרי-צאן רובצים עליה–כי מן-הבאר ההיא, ישקו העדרים; והאבן גדולה, על-פי הבאר. ונאספו-שמה כל-העדרים, וגללו את-האבן מעל פי הבאר, והשקו, את-הצאן; והשיבו את-האבן על-פי הבאר, למקומה.
ויצא כט: ב-ג
Yaakov’s act of uncovering the stone from the well symbolizes his desire for Rachel, allowing his love for his beloved to flow just as water is drawn from the well. Covering the well with a heavy stone signifies Yaakov’s despair when Laban, Rachel’s father, tricks Yaakov into marrying Leah, Rachel’s elder sister. Yaakov must work seven years as an indentured servant and wait to marry his beloved Rachel. In effect the well is covered, no water is drawn, and love does not flow forth from Yaakov and Leah’s union.
When Yaakov marries Rachel the heavy stone is removed, water can be drawn, and their love flourishes.
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