The Journey of Yaakov Avinu by Willie Roth


In describing Yaakov’s departure from Be’er Sheva, the Pasuk says, “ VaYeitzei Yaakov MiBe’er Shava VaYeilech Charanah,” “And Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva, and he went to Charan.”  Rashi asks why it is necessary to say both “VaYeitzei,” “He left,” and “Vayeilech,” “He traveled.”  If Yaakov traveled to Charan then he must have left Be’er Sheva!  Thus, Rashi explains that “VaYeitzei Yaakov” expresses the idea that Yaakov’s exit greatly impacted the community, as does any Tzadik’s departure.  While living in Be’er Sheva, Yaakov was its pride and glory, and upon his departure all of the splendor left with him.  Along these lines, the Gur Aryeh elucidates exactly what was lacking when Yaakov left.  He explains that the Tzadik of a community has three roles: he guides the people in Yirat Hashem (awe of Hashem) by teaching them how to perform the Mitzvot; he enlightens the community with his wisdom and insight; he edifies the people in regards to Middot and character.  Yaakov as well had these responsibilities while in Be’er Sheva.  However, once he left there was no replacement for his position, leaving the community lacking a role model towards whom they could turn for guidance and direction.

The Beit HaLevi presents an alternative approach to the significance of Yaakov’s departure.  In general, when a person embarks on a journey it is for one of two reasons.  Either his focus is on his departure because he feels it necessary to leave his current location and where his next stop will be is irrelevant , or his focus is upon his destination, because although there is nothing specifically wrong with his current place, he has a need to be in a different location.  However, because of the obligation of Kibud Av VaEim, Yaakov Avinu’s journey had both aspects.  On the one hand, he had to fulfill Rivkah’s commandment to flee Be’er Sheva in order to save himself from the threat on his life that Eisav presented.   On the other hand, Yaakov had to fulfill his father’s commandment not to marry a Canaani, but rather to travel to Padan Aram to marry a member of Lavan’s family.  Thus, the Torah describes Yaakov’s exit with both “VaYeitzei” and “Vayeilech” as he was doing just that; he was specifically leaving Be’er Sheva as well as traveling particularly to Charan.  Along these lines, the Netziv explains that the fact that the Torah describes Yaakov’s journey with two separate actions shows that in between leaving Be’er Sheva and traveling to Charan he studied Torah at Yeshivat Sheim VeEiver.  First, he fulfilled Rivkah’s commandment to flee home, then he learned in Yeshiva, and afterwards he traveled to Charan, again showing the idea that his journey was a two step process.

However, the Beit HaLevi takes this idea one step further and explains that the nature of Yaakov’s departure of Eretz Yisrael parallels the Galut of Am Yisrael.  When Am Yisrael was sent into exile there were really two aspects of her departure.  On the one hand, she was forced to leave Eretz Yisrael in order to be saved from complete annihilation.  As the Torah describes (Devarim 11:12), “Tamid Einei Hashem Elokecha Bah,” “ The eyes of Hashem, your God, are always upon it (Eretz Yisrael).” It is a land with inherent Kedushah and consequently it cannot sustain a nation of sinners.  Furthermore, the Ramban on Parshat Bechukotai explains that the Kelalot of the Tochachah are applicable to Am Yisrael only when they are in Eretz Yisrael.  Therefore, in order to save Bnei Yisrael from total destruction Hashem sent them into exile, focusing the Galut on the departure from Eretz Yisrael.  However, Hashem did not (Chas VeShalom) simply throw Klal Yisrael into the rest of the world leaving it Hefker for anyone to control.  Rather, Hashem specifically placed Klal Yisrael in the Diaspora, a place where He would still be able to watch over her and guide her, albeit in a hidden manner.  Thus, part of the exile was to travel to a particular location (Bavel), a place where Hashgacha Pratit would still be felt.

Perhaps it is possible to develop this idea even one step further.  Not only did the Galut have two aspects, but the Geulah also has two aspects: leaving the Diaspora and traveling towards Eretz Yisrael and the ultimate redemption.  One the one hand, Klal Yisrael must first leave the mentality of the Diaspora and realize that it is not the ideal lifestyle.  Am Yisrael is not supposed to be totally integrated into another nation’s culture and way of life, but instead is supposed to have a culture and identity of its own as defined by Halacha.  The challenge of the Diaspora is that it makes us feel comfortable to live an inappropriate lifestyle and consequently prevents us from recognizing that it is not really the ideal.  Once we have departed, we can take additional steps towards our destination of Eretz Yisrael and the coming of Mashiach.  However, in order to make this necessary transition between leaving the Diaspora and entering Eretz Yisrael we must imitate the approach of Yaakov Avinu.  Just as he made the transition between leaving Be’er Sheva and entering Charan by learning Torah, so too we must utilize the Torah and its guidelines to help free ourselves from the Galut mentality.  Once we understand the ideal lifestyle as prescribed by the Torah, we will recognize that our approach towards life might be inappropriate and we will be able to take steps necessary to facilitate our return home.

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