It says in the portion Toldot that Isaac, Abraham's son, dug wells for water; first, in the same places where his father had dug them, which the inhabitants of the land had covered up, then, in two new places. The people of the land, the shepherds of Gerar, fought with Isaac over those two wells, claiming to own the water. Finally, Isaac dug a third well, which there was no argument over. And the kabbalists explain that the secret within the story of the digging of the wells is really the secret of an individual's ability to develop spiritually.
At the core of the teaching of Kabbalah, and of the teachings of the Ari and Rav Ashlag, is a very simple concept: Light is always present in Its complete and entire form. The only limits are whether or not there is a vessel for that Light, and if there is, the size of that vessel – and the greater the vessel, the greater Light that is received by the individual. How do we create a vessel? By experiencing lack. Once we understand that, we come to understand the importance of constantly finding the lack within ourselves. In fact, even a person who does all the right things spiritually but does not feel an almost constant lack is tremendously limited in the amount of Light he can draw… because if there's no vessel, there is no place for the Light to be received.
Therefore, one of the most important parts of our spiritual work must be searching, or digging, for lack; that is what Isaac was doing. It’s not that he went out every day and dug a physical well. Rather, he sat down in the morning and looked within himself to see what, spiritually, he lacked and what he desperately needed the Light of the Creator for.
Kabbalah teaches there are five levels of soul—Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida. A person who feels a little bit of lack will build a spiritual structure that allows himself only to receive blessings on the lowest level, Nefesh. A person who digs deeper and takes the time to realize the areas in which he is lacking and where he desperately needs to receive the assistance of the Light to the Creator will receive blessings from the next level up, and so forth. The deeper the digging, the deeper the lack, the higher the structure, the more Light and blessing the person will receive.
This wasn't just one day of work for Isaac; it was constant. He began his day by saying, “I have to discover what I lack within me.” Of course, it's easier to find what we are lacking physically, which is also important, because if we don’t dig the physical well, we won't get the Light to fill it. But if a person doesn't also dig the spiritual well, if he doesn’t look inside and say, “These are the areas within me where I desperately need the Light of the Creator,” then, again, he can do all the spiritual work, but there's no foundation or vessel into which the blessings can come.
As such, when it says Isaac began digging, it means that the first thing he did every day was ask where in his life and spiritual work he desperately needed the Light. Can each of us honestly say that there's something we feel we need the desperate assistance of the Light of the Creator for? If the answer is no, we have to realize that all the Light we could possibly receive each day will be limited. We wake up in the morning, we feel relatively good, and we go ahead and do our spiritual work, thinking that by doing so we’re going to receive blessings and Light. But without the depth of foundation, it’s not possible. Sure, if we feel a little bit of lack, we can draw a little bit of Light that day, but it is limited. Therefore, what the portion Toldot is telling us is that the secret of digging the wells begins with this; this has to literally be the foundation of our spiritual work, every day. We have to dig for the lack.
It says that Isaac got in arguments with the shepherds of Gerar. The word Gerar, in Hebrew, translates as “to be dragged.” What does this mean? We compare ourselves, or are “dragged,” to everybody else. The shepherds of Gerar received their sustenance based on where everybody else was; “I'm better than a lot of people I know, so I’m OK.” So, when it says that the shepherds of Gerar came to fight with Isaac when he was digging his wells, it is talking about that force which is telling him, “Compared to everybody else, you’re OK. Don't worry so much, just do your spiritual work,” trying to convince him he doesn’t need to dig any deeper. That's the fight between Isaac and the shepherds of Gerar, and between our true consciousness, which knows how desperately we need to dig to find a lack so that we can create a vessel into which the Light of the Creator will come, and the consciousness of Gerar, being dragged where everybody else is, in a place with not much feeling of lack. That's the secret behind the argument between Isaac and the people of Gerar.
And this, as we said, needs to be understood as a foundation for our spiritual work. The degree of the digging - and digging means realizing, coming to understand how deeply and strongly we need the Light of the Creator, how desperately we need change in this area or that area - has to be the foundation, because upon that, our entire day, week, and life is based. We need to build the five levels, the spiritual structure. So, the question to ask ourselves each morning is: Am I preparing my vessel to receive today, am I digging for lack? Because when we wake up in the morning and realize how desperately we need the assistance of the Light of the Creator, then we build a vessel for that day into which the Light and blessings we can draw are unlimited.