When Eisav decided to try to kill Yaakov, Yaakov needed to run away. His mother Rivkah told him to run to her brother Lavan in Charan. Unbeknownst to Yaakov, he would spend twenty years with his uncle Lavan, who was a profound Rasha. But Yaakov did not go straight to Charan; instead, Chazal teach that he went to learn in Sheim and Eiver’s academy for fourteen years.
But why did Yaakov need to go learn with Sheim and Eiver? He had been learning with Yitzchak for sixty-three years! Who could be better to learn with then Yitzchak Avinu? What did Sheim and Eiver have that Yitzchak did not?
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky explains that for those sixty-three years when Yaakov learnt with Yitzchak, he learned in an atmosphere insulated from the corruption and evil deeds of Canaan. But Yaakov knew that soon he would be living with Lavan and his other terrible, dishonest friends. To survive spiritually through such an ordeal, he would have to learn the Torah of Sheim and Eiver, who also had to live with corrosive surroundings. Eiver had lived with those who built the tower of Bavel, and Sheim had seen the Dor HaMabul. Yaakov’s fourteen years learning with Sheim and Eiver were the reason Yaakov made it through the twenty years with Lavan spiritually unscathed. Then Hashem further prepared him for his years with Lavan, through the vision of the angels and the promise He gave Yaakov at the beginning of our Parsha. Hashem’s promise sustained Yaakov, but if not for his own efforts, he would never have even received the prophecy.