The physical world is a mechanism for concealing God. God is not at all apparent in the natural world. Were He, we would be completely overwhelmed. We would have little choice but to fulfill His will. There would be no “space” within which we could work to come close to Him. As it is, the world that God created hides Him thus providing us the opportunity to reveal Him. We reveal Him by believing that He is the force that gives life to every thing.
The Sfas Emes understands this from a homiletical interpretation of the pesukim in this week’s parsha that describe Ya’akov Avinu at the well when he first comes to Charan. “וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָׂדֶה וְהִנֵּה־שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי־צֹאן רֹבְצִים עָלֶיהָ כִּי מִן־הַבְּאֵר הַהִוא יַשְׁקוּ הָעֲדָרִים וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה עַל־פִּי הַבְּאֵר׃ וְנֶאֶסְפוּ־שָׁמָּה כָל־הָעֲדָרִים וְגָלְלוּ אֶת־הָאֶבֶן מֵעַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר .../He looked and beheld a well in the field and there were three flocks of sheep lying about it, because from the well they watered the flocks but there was a great stone upon the well. When all the flocks gathered there, they rolled the stone off the mouth of the well …”
The field represents this world with its apparent independent existence. It seems to be ownerless, abandoned. The well represents the spiritual underlying life-giving force that is within the natural world. A thinking person has the ability to use intelligence to discern the underlying force. If a person thinks about it, he will come to the conclusion that the world cannot have an independent existence. There must be some force that created it and keeps it in existence. Existence requires energy. Nothing can exist without a motive force within it. This intelligence is represented by the three flocks of sheep which symbolize chochma/wisdom, bina/understanding and da’as/knowledge – the sum total of man’s intelligence.
However, if a person does not use his intelligence, does not constantly think about this, then God is concealed. This concealment is represented by the great stone which is upon the well hiding the water within. What can we do to prevent this concealment? We can gather all our desires and abilities and devote them to God. Prior to commencing any activity, we can intend that this activity be a fulfillment of God’s will. This is represented by all the flocks gathering together resulting in the stone being rolled off the well thus revealing the water underneath.
Another possible understanding of, “וְנֶאֶסְפוּ־שָׁמָּה/and they gathered together there” is to identify with the nation of
Nowadays, this power to reveal is inherent in the nation of
It is this power that enabled Ya’akov Avinu to remove the stone from the well even as the individual shepherds could not. Ya’akov, representing the entire nation of