In Parashat VaYeitzei, a new era in Jewish History emerges when Yaakov meets his wife to be, Rachel, at a well. This concept of a well is very intriguing, as a well has been the place where many instrumental families in the Torah originated. For example, in Parashat Shemot (Shemot 2:16), the Torah describes that Moshe met Tziporah at a well. Similarly, in Parashat Chayei Sarah (Bereishit 24:15), when Eliezer is in search of a wife for Yitzchak, the Torah describes Eliezer’s finding of Rivkah at a well. So what is so significant about a well that it directly leads to the marriages of these exemplary figures?
As we know, Torah is compared to water. One basis for this comparison is that just as water will always seek to flow from heights to a lower place, so too, Torah will be retained only in a person who is humble and has a low amount of pride (Ta’anit 7a; based on Isaiah 55:1). Additionally, we anoint our kings only using water, as a positive sign that his reign will continue and flow like water (Horayot 12a), as seen by Shlomo HaMelech’s anointment by the Gichon river (Malachim 1:38). Rashi comments there that the reason why Shlomo is being anointed by water is “Shetimshach Malchuto,” “So that his reign will continue (like water).”
In this light, we can now suggest a fascinating perspective to the message conveyed by these wells. These wells, filled with water, filled with Torah, are the starting point and at the epicenter of these model marriages—the ideals of Torah should be the focus of a marriage. Indeed, the Gemara (Sotah 17a) states, “Ish VeIsha Zachu Shechinah Beineihem,” “If the man and woman merit it, Hashem’s Shechinah will be among them,” “Lo Zachu, Eish Ochalten,” “if they do not merit it, then fire will consume them.” This “it” as stated in the Gemara is whether or not the man and woman will make Torah the center of their marriage. A marriage’s success hinges upon Hashem’s Shechinah permeating their home, through the light of Torah.
Proof to this concept can even be found in the Hebrew language itself. The words of “Ish” and “Isha” (“husband” and “wife”), the two components in a marriage, are spelled identically except for one letter. “Ish” contains a Yud, whereas “Isha” contains a Hey. If they choose, the husband and wife have the ability to bring Hashem into their marriage: the man’s Yud paired with the wife’s Hey composes Y-H, one of Hashem’s names.
But the water, as explained in the Gemara in Ta’anit teaches us yet another crucial lesson for marital success: Anivut, humility. A haughty attitude by either partner in the marriage can be detrimental.
One final reason why a well is a very appropriate place for a husband to find a wife is that when one thinks of a well, he thinks of it as solely a beautifying and relaxing place to be. However, what does not appear on the surface is the fact that someone had to build this well initially, and someone continuously must work hard to maintain it. This is analogous to marriage. One may think that marriage is all “fun and games,” but a successful marriage must initially have a strong foundation but also must be continuously maintained even after the foundation is created.
Hopefully, we should reach the height of being able to emulate our forefathers and lead our lives as they led theirs. They all had successful marriages, and IY”H, we should too. Although today we no longer meet others by wells, its lessons still offers profound advice: to centralize Torah’s role in the relationship, to mutually expresses a sense of humility, and to be mindful of a marriage’s need for hard work. Hopefully then our marriage will continue “Shetimshach Malchuso” – as a king’s reign should continue.