Judaism: Vayetze: Going Out
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Torah portion of VaYeitze begins with Jacob leaving one place ands with him leaving another. Yet the two words used to describe each “leaving” are vastly different.
When Jacob is leaving the land of Canaan,he is fleeing from his house. He was escaping from a brother who was set to kill him. He was running from a father who may have lost some measure of faith and confidence in his son. He was leaving without knowing when he was to return. And he was leaving into a land of the unknown, and into a future filled with challenges and doubt.
The verse tells us " And Jacob left Beer sheba, and he went ( VaYeitzeh) to Haran."( Genesis 28:10) In the midst of Jacob's running away from Esau he sees the vision of the ladder to the heavens in a dream. In this vision he is promised by G-d , great things.
“ And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you."( ibid :15)
When he returns from the land of Laban we read; ". So Jacob rose (vaYakam) , and he lifted up his sons and his wives upon the camels." (ibid 31:17) This too occurs connected to a dream. Yet in Haran, it was a very different sort of dream.
" And it came to pass at the time the animals came into heat, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the he goats that mounted the animals were ringed, speckled, and striped."( ibid 31:10) As opposed to the spiritual dream of angels that he dreamt while still in the land, here Jacob dreams about physical goats and material acquisitions. The materialistic seduction of Chutz LeAretz- Exile - seems to have begun to affect Jacob as well. He understands that he needs to leave.
What is to be learned from those two differing words, Vayeitzeh ( and he went out) and Vayakam( and he arose) ?
When we read in the book of Deuteronomy, of G-d's instructions regarding the going out to war .The verse reads: "Ki Teitzei LaMilchamah - If you shall go out to wage war against your enemy." (Deuteronomy 21:10) The verse could have simply been, "If you shall wage war?" T
he Torah wants us to remember that warfare is not harmonious with our inner essence. In order to go to war you must exit your oasis of spiritual and holy comfort. Yet his must be done only with the purpose of achieving goals of spiritual and national importance.
We see his again with Noah when G-d commands him the following;" 'Go forth( Tzeh) from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. ... be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.' ( Genesis 8:16-17).
We see it as well with Jacob’s leaving of the land of his forefathers. Jacob was destined to begin the creation of the Jewish people in the land of Haran. That necessarily involved the spiritual pain of VaYeitzeh.
That is not the case when Jacob leaves Haran. When he leaves the land of Lavan , he is escaping the quagmire of materialism, falsehood and idolatry. In order to do this he must rise up (VaKam) . He must gather his spiritual strength and courage in order to be able to continue to fulfill his destiny in the land of his forefathers.
There will be many times, that the people of Israel will need to leave the comfort of their spiritual existence and venture into the dangers of coping with a world that is both dangerous and menacing. That is what we learn from Jacob’s leaving and his returning. That is what going out to war- ki teitze el hamilchama teaches us. If one’s purpose and goal remains clear ,then the continuation of the verse becomes a promise ". If you go out to war against your enemies,... and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hands..."( Deuteronomy 21:10)
When this piece was being written, it was still unclear if the Israeli defense forces were compelled to enter gaza or not. Yet the courage of going out from their homes and the courage of entering battles that need to be fought will hopefully bring about the Divine promise of protection. And either way, it is only a matter of time before they do.
It is just as Hashem promised Jacob in his personal “going out”.
"And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you."