And Jacob left Be’er Sheva and he went to Haran (Bereishis 28:10)
Two different conversations – yet, both had the same result – Yaakov would have to leave home. Rivkah told Yaakov to flee the familial home in order to save himself from Esav’s wrath. Yitzchak told Yaakov to travel to Haran in order to find a suitable spouse. Yaakov accepts the wise counsel of his parents and begins the long journey away from his home and away from his land. Although his mother said it would only be “yamim achadim, a few days,” Yaakov understood that the road ahead was long and tumultuous.
The commentaries question why the Torah had to tell us both that Yaakov left Be’er Sheva (Va’Yetzei Yaakov M’Be’er Sheva) and that he went to Haran (Va’Yelech Charana). If the Torah would have just stated that Yaakov went to Haran it would have been clear that he left Be’er Sheva as well.
Rashi explains that the Torah is teaching us that the departure of a great person from a particular place has an impact on the people he leaves behind. When a righteous person lives in a community he influences them through instruction and role-modeling. When he leaves, his departure is felt in a tangible fashion. As such, “Yaakov left Be’er Sheva” teaches us that Yaakov’s departure was felt by the residents of Be’er Sheva, and “he went to Haran,” is telling us of Yaakov’s intended destination.
The Beis HaLevi (Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, 1820-1892) takes a different approach. He explains that people take flight for different reasons. There are times in life when one’s objective is to get away from their current circumstances. I don’t have a particular destination; I just know that I don’t want to be “here.” And there are times when I am not looking to escape from my current circumstances. I need to journey in order to reach an important destination; there is somewhere else I need to be. Yaakov’s journey had both of these elements. He left home because of the command of his parents. His mother commanded him to leave the familial home in order to save his life. The destination was unimportant; Yaakov couldn’t be in Be’er Sheva. On the other hand Yitzchak tells his son to specifically travel to the home of Lavan in order to find a wife. Yaakov tried to accommodate the wishes of both parents. “And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva,” he was running from danger thereby accommodating the wishes of his mother. “… And he went to Haran,” he was journeying specifically to find a wife, in accordance with the desires of his father.
The Beis HaLevi not only provides us with an important textual insight, but provides us with an important life lesson as well. There are two types of journeys we take throughout life. The journey “from” and the journey “to.” There are times in life when my circumstances are unhealthy and difficult and I must extricate myself from them in order to become a whole person. We take flight from our current reality in order to escape negative circumstances. But there is a danger when you are only running from something. You can end up without direction. You can spend a lifetime running and yet never reach a destination. On the other hand, there are times in life when I realize that life can and should be more. There are moments when I feel that I can and should be more. And I make a decision to grow and improve. I leave my current situation in an effort to expand my heart and soul – but if I don’t know where I am going, if there is no life itinerary, I can end up spinning my wheels and experience mounting life frustration. It is not just enough to journey “from,” we must also journey “to.” I must create a plan that includes my intended destination. Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be? And then I can answer the question, how can I get there?
There are times in life when we must leave our Be’er Sheva, our current circumstances. We must resist the temptation to only “journey from” and find the courage to “journey to.” If we want the journey to be successful we must identify our destination and chart our course. May we be privileged to find the strength to embark on the journey and may God grant us the wisdom to reach our destination.