And Jacob left Be’er Sheva and he went to Haran (Bereishis 28:10)
The dramatic journey had begun. Yaakov fled the familial home to escape the wrath of his older brother, Esav, under the cover of going to find a wife from amongst his mother’s family. The journey was filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, yet Yaakov heroically clung to God and the ideals of his family. Amid all the Parsha drama, the commentaries ask a simple question; why must the Torah state that Yaakov left Be’er Sheva (Va’Yetzei Yaakov M’Be’er Sheva) and that he went to Haran (Va’Yelech Charana)? Once you state the second part of the verse (that he went to Charan), it is obvious that he left Be’er Sheva. Why include a seemingly redundant phrase?
The Beis HaLevi (Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, 1820-1892) explains that people make life changes 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 specific destination; I just know that I don’t want to be “here.” My circumstances are so compromised that I must get away, I must take flight, I must leave. The destination is unimportant, I just need to leave. And there are times when I am not looking to escape from my current circumstances. My current circumstances are “fine,” but I am not looking to live a “fine” life, I am searching for greatness and holiness. I can live out my life in my current situation, but I choose to journey to something better. I need to journey to reach an important destination; there is somewhere else I need to be. Yaakov’s journey had both elements. He left home at the behest of his parents. His mother commanded him to leave the familial home 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 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 to become a whole person. We take flight from our current reality 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 decide to grow and improve. I leave my current situation 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 experiencing 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.