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 parents. Amid all the 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 his current circumstances. We don’t have a specific destination; we just know that we don’t want to be “here.” Our circumstances are so compromised that we must get away, take flight, and leave. The destination is unimportant, we just need to leave. And there are times when one is not looking to escape from his current circumstances. His current circumstances are fine, but he is not looking to live a “fine” life, he is searching for greatness and holiness. We can live out our lives in our current situations, but we choose to journey to something better. We need to journey to reach an important destination; there is somewhere else we 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 our circumstances are unhealthy and difficult, and we must extricate ourselves from them to each 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. On the other hand, there are times in life when we realize that life can and should be more. And we decide to grow and improve. We leave our current situations to expand our hearts and souls, but if we don’t know where we are going, if there is no life itinerary, we can end up spinning our wheels and experience mounting life frustration. It is not just enough to journey “from,” we must also journey “to.” We must create a plan that includes our intended destination. Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be? And then we can each answer the question, how can I get there?
Sometimes 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.