“And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan.” (21:10)
Most of us get to a certain platform of spirituality in life and leave it at that. We’re happy to move into neutral and coast on what we’ve already achieved.
If we decided to keep Shabbat, we carry on keeping Shabbat; if we said, “I’m going to keep kosher,” we carry on keeping Kosher, or putting on tefillin or whatever it is. If we went to Yeshiva, we carry on learning — sometimes less, sometimes more. At some point we feel, “Okay, I’m not that great, but I’m not that bad either.”
Truth be told, to move outside our comfort zone and do something that’s even a little bit more than other people is very difficult. It’s difficult because people don’t do more than they have to. Some of us struggle to do even that. In terms of spirituality we are a bit like herd animals. We like to stick with the crowd.
And we also tend to think, “What difference does it make to the world anyway? True, I’ll be a better person, but there are already so many tzadikim (righteous people) in the world, so what does the world need me for? Why do I need to be so religious? Aren’t there already enough “Famous Tzadik” pictures to put up in the succa?”
“And Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan.”
Rashi explains that the Torah needed to write only that Yaakov went to Charan — what need was there to emphasize that he also left Be’er Sheva? He answers that when a tzadik leaves a place it leaves an impression. When a tzadik is in a city, his presence causes radiance and a luminous, spiritual brilliance to settle on the city, and when he leaves, the radiance is lost.
The question arises, “Was Yaakov the first tzadik to leave a city? Didn’t both his father Yitzchak and his grandfather Avraham both leave places? Why does the Torah emphasize Yaakov’s leaving over theirs?”
The difference is that when both Avraham and Yitzchak left places, they left no tzadik of their stature behind, whereas when Yaakov left Be’er Sheva he left his parents, Yitzchak and Rivka, two great tzadikim. One might have thought that since Yitzchak and Rivka remained, Yaakov’s departure would not dim the spiritual light of the place. Therefore, it is specifically here that the Torah emphasizes the reverse — holiness never eclipses itself. The spiritual light that three holy people radiate is much greater than two.
When we think that our meager efforts at being close to Gd are eclipsed by the great and the holy people of our generation, we should remember that holiness is never eclipsed, that our every holy thought or action adds immeasurably to the cosmos.
- Sources: Kli Yakar in Talelei Orot