To dig a well, you need persistence. Pick a spot and stick with it. Don’t stop boring when you hit a rocky stretch, and you won’t be able to take your work home with you.

To dig a well, you need humility. If you’re one of those creative types who needs to leave a personal imprint on everything he does, find another job. You’re not creating the product—you’re not even manufacturing it. It’s there beneath the surface, ready and waiting. You’re just there to remove the stuff that’s in the way, so that it can well up, fresh and bubbling, of its own accord.

To dig a well, you need faith. Faith that beneath the sand and rock, beneath the slime and grime and dust and dirt, awaits that fresh and bubbling water, waiting for you to cut a path to it. Faith that if you pick a spot and stick with it, set aside your pretensions and simply commit to doing what needs doing, you will eventually hit a vein of fluid life.

Abraham and Isaac had much in common, of course. Abraham was the first Jew, and Isaac was his heir as the torch-carrier of the creed and morals of monotheism in a pagan world. Each faced similar challenges in the course of his life (decades of childlessness, famine, wife-nabbing, hostile tyrants, renegade sons . . .). But they were also as different as two personalities can be.

Abraham was constantly on the move; Isaac stayed put. Abraham was G‑d’s salesman, pitching his tent at the crossroads of caravan routes and inviting wayfarers in so that he could teach them and enlighten them. Isaac, on the other hand, was the silent, secluded type; he, too, had many disciples, but they were inspired by his piety and commitment rather than his charisma and activism. In the Kabbalah, Abraham personifies the attribute of chessed (benevolence, love), while Isaac embodies gevurah (rigor, awe, self-abnegation). In their daily lives, Abraham was a shepherd, Isaac a well-digger.

As Jews, we are Abraham’s children. We traverse the world as G‑d’s salesmen, bringing the word and way of G‑d to its inhabitants. We care for it as G‑d’s shepherds, commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate the ignorant and redeem the oppressed. We transform it as G‑d’s artists and artisans, charged to remake the human mind and heart, remake society, remake creation.

But even as we journey and explore, even as we preach and teach and give and transform, we are also the children of Isaac. We also appreciate that at the core of every individual and every creation lies a pool of pure, life-giving waters. We understand that we do not create goodness, or manufacture it, or even bestow it. The goodness is there; we only unearth it. We are only the well-diggers.