One of the loveliest and most affecting scenes in the Bible is Jacob’s first encounter with Rachel. It takes place at a well just as had the first meeting of Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, with the servant Abraham had sent to find a wife for Isaac.
We must ask: what’s the deal with meeting at wells? Was it just that they were common meeting places? Was it simply a coincidence? Or is there something extraordinary about the ignition of love and family at a primary source of both physical and spiritual sustenance for all life?
There’s a beautiful and telling pun in the account of this meeting of Jacob and Rachel that may instruct us in this matter. When Jacob first sees Rachel he removes the stone that covered the well and waters her family’s sheep. And then he kisses Rachel.
The task of removing the stone from the well to water the animals was daunting to others, but it seemed effortless to Jacob. His initiative certainly had the immediate effect of nurturing and providing life sustaining support to the sheep. But his decision and power to do it also owed a great deal to feeling and showing a powerful love, a love for his future wife and our great matriarch, Rachel.
The verbs to describe “watered” and “kissed” suggest that both actions were linked. The Hebrew word for watered here is vayashq. And the Hebrew word for kissed is vayishaq. Both words are so close to each other that they have the exact same consonants. The watering that sustains life and the kissing that births a sustaining love – now and into the future – are interwoven threads in this wonderful narrative.
As it was true for our ancestors, so it is true for us.