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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

Parashat Vayetze

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Rashi (28:10) tells us how Ya’akov’s departure from Be'er Sheva effected the community around him. But he does not tell us how Ya’akov himself felt.

Ya’akov was certainly frightened by the prospect of leaving the safe environs of his father’s house and the holiness of Eretz Israel. But as Abarbanel points out, God assured Ya'akov that he would be able to maintain his high level of holiness even in Charan, and that he would indeed return to Eretz Israel.

In his famous dream, Ya’akov saw angels ascending and descending. One would think that that if the angels come from Heaven they should first descend and then ascend. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains that the Torah is speaking of two different groups of angels: those of Eretz Israel ascended because Ya'akov was leaving the Holy Land and those of Chutz la-Aretz descended to accompany him outside the Land. Abarbanel points out that the angels from Eretz Israel were superior to the angels in Chutz la-Aretz and that this was God’s way of reminding Ya’akov that he must return to Eretz Yisrael, which is on a higher spiritual level.

We know that one can achieve levels of spirituality and Torah learning in Chutz la-Aretz. But God taught Ya’akov Avinu that the levels one can achieve in Eretz Israel are higher. As R. Yehudah Halevi says in the Kuzari (II, 12), just as a vineyard can only flourish in a place having the proper conditions and climate, so can a nation only flourish spiritually in its own land.

Ya’akov understood God's message and took an oath that should God sustain him during his stay in Charan, he would return to his father's house in Eretz Israel. Ya’akov, as we know, did return. We pray that we all be privileged to return to the home of our forefathers in Eretz Israel.

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