Rabbi Yonah Burr
A Sign of Strength
ויהי כאשר ראה יעקב את רחל בת לבן אחי אמו ואת צאן לבן אחי אמו ויגש יעקב ויגל את האבן מעל פי הבאר וישק את צאן לבן אחי אמו
And it was, when Yaakov saw Rachel, daughter of Lavan, his mother’s brother, and the flock of Lavan his mother’s brother, Yaakov came forward and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of Lavan his mother’s brother.
Rashi, citing the medrash, explains that this was a massive boulder that was used to cover the well, and the participation of all the shepherds was required to lift it. However, Yaakov simply lifted the stone up, as easily as one would remove a bottle cap from a bottle. This teaches us, that Yaakov was physically strong.
The question is, why is it necessary for us to know that Yaakov was strong? And since when is this an attribute that is worthy of praise?
Even more perplexing, is the fact that this ‘strength’ is mentioned in our tefillos, as a source of merit. On Shemini Atzeres, as we herald in the rainy season, we declare: זכור טען מקלו ועבר ירדן מים, יחד לב וגל אבן מפי באר מים, - בעבורו אל תמנע מים “Remember the one who crossed the Jordan with his staff, who concerted his heart and removed the stone from the well- for his sake, please do not hold back water!”
Rav Shimon Schwab z”l explains, that Yaakov’s strength was not the result of a strong, physical constitution, but rather a reflection of his inner, spiritual strength of character. All of his Torah study, and all of his constant refinement, done on the inside, permeated his essence, and even shown through his outside. The strength he demonstrated while lifting the stone was actually the tremendous spiritual fire burning within him.
Rav Schwab explains, that this is also the case wherever the Torah extolls seemingly external attributes. When the Torah states that Rachel was physically beautiful, although it is meant to be taken literally, it is also reflective of her beautiful character and nature as well. Our fore-bearers and the righteous among us have this ability- to perfect their insides, and their outsides.
It is this accomplishment and merit with which we beseech Hashem for rain, and for all of our needs. Hashem has instilled in us such amazing potential, and we can access this little by little and step by step!
May we continue to see success in our efforts to develop our spiritual strength and beauty, and be a source of nachas to Hashem!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!