Coming back home

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in our everyday life - Vayetzeh - 5781

With these words, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin chose to call on Diaspora Jewry in his first speech as Prime Minister (23 June 1977): "I call on the citizens of Israel who have left the country to return home... We will not call these people derogatory nicknames. Insults do not solve any problem. We will just tell them: "It is time to come home".

These things that resonated in our ears then, take on a special meaning in the reading of Parashat Vayetzeh, in which Yaakov was forced to go into exile to Haran, and in the end, when possible, he fled Haran to return home to Eretz Yisrael. And especially in the week when we were informed about giving Jonathan Pollard the opportunity to come home to Eretz Israel and the State of Israel.

A study of the Psukim shows that there is a pattern that repeats itself in the descent of Yaacov into the exile of Haran, and later in his descent into Egypt. This pattern is supposed to teach us about our attitude to 'exile' and our longing for 'redemption', and for 'sovereignty in our country'.

The descent to Haran was not by choice, but out of constraint, lack of any other option, as a death-threatening escape from Eisav, until the rage had passed, and not in order to settle there: "....

הִנֵּה֙ עֵשָׂ֣ו אָחִ֔יךָ מִתְנַחֵ֥ם לְךָ֖ לְהָרְגֶֽךָ׃ וְעַתָּ֥ה בְנִ֖י שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹלִ֑י וְק֧וּם בְּרַח־לְךָ֛ אֶל־לָבָ֥ן אָחִ֖י חָרָֽנָה׃ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ֥ עִמּ֖וֹ יָמִ֣ים אֲחָדִ֑ים עַ֥ד אֲשֶׁר־תָּשׁ֖וּב חֲמַ֥ת אָחִֽיךָ׃

“Your brother Eisav is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Now, my son, listen to me. Flee at once to Haran, to my brother Laban.Stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury subsides"… (Bereshit 27:42-44).

The descent into Egypt was also a constraint, due to the famine that prevailed in the land:

וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֗ה לָג֣וּר בָּאָרֶץ֮ בָּאנוּ֒ כִּי־אֵ֣ין מִרְעֶ֗ה לַצֹּאן֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לַעֲבָדֶ֔יךָ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֥ד הָרָעָ֖ב בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וְעַתָּ֛ה יֵֽשְׁבוּ־נָ֥א עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ בְּאֶ֥רֶץ גֹּֽשֶׁן׃

We have come,” they told Pharaoh, “to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, the famine being severe in the land of Canaan. Pray, then, let your servants stay in the region of Goshen.” (Bereshit 47:4)

And because of the emotions of the father whose soul relates to the soul of his son Yosef:

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֛ב עוֹד־יוֹסֵ֥ף בְּנִ֖י חָ֑י אֵֽלְכָ֥ה וְאֶרְאֶ֖נּוּ בְּטֶ֥רֶם אָמֽוּת׃

Enough!” said Israel. “My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.” (Bereshit 45:28)

The descent was not to settle there, but to 'live':

דירת עראי עד יעבור דוחק הרעב אבל לא להשתקע כמו שדרשו רבותינו.

we came here for only a temporary stay, sojourn; At that time, they did not entertain the idea of becoming permanent residents of Egypt”. (Chizkuni Bereshit 47:4).

On the way down to Haran, Yaakov is anxious about his fate, about the unknown future. G-d reveals Himself to him in a dream, promises him to safeguard and protect him, as well as homecoming to the Land of Israel:

וְהִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י עִמָּ֗ךְ וּשְׁמַרְתִּ֙יךָ֙ בְּכֹ֣ל אֲשֶׁר־תֵּלֵ֔ךְ וַהֲשִׁ֣בֹתִ֔יךָ אֶל־הָאֲדָמָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את כִּ֚י לֹ֣א אֶֽעֱזָבְךָ֔…

"Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you…" (Bereshit 28:15)

Even on the way down to Egypt, Yaacov is afraid and G-d reassures him:

אַל־תִּירָא֙ מֵרְדָ֣ה מִצְרַ֔יְמָה ... אָנֹכִ֗י אֵרֵ֤ד עִמְּךָ֙ מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וְאָנֹכִ֖י אַֽעַלְךָ֣ גַם־עָלֹ֑ה ...

"Fear not to go down to Egypt… I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back…" (Bereshit 46:3-4).

On the way down to Haran, Yaakov found himself, vulnerable, helpless, dependent on his host, Laban, who exploited him, cheated, who enslaved him and extorted his salary:

זֶה־לִּ֞י עֶשְׂרִ֣ים שָׁנָה֮ בְּבֵיתֶךָ֒ עֲבַדְתִּ֜יךָ אַרְבַּֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ בִּשְׁתֵּ֣י בְנֹתֶ֔יךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים בְּצֹאנֶ֑ךָ וַתַּחֲלֵ֥ף אֶת־מַשְׂכֻּרְתִּ֖י עֲשֶׂ֥רֶת מֹנִֽים׃

"Of the twenty years that I spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flocks; and you changed my wages time and again". (Bereshit 31:41).

Even in Yaacov's descent into Egypt, his sons found themselves dependent on the arbitrariness of the Egyptians

אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע אֶת־יוֹסֵֽף׃

"Who did not know Yosef" (Shmot 1: 8), enslaved to Pharaoh, working hard under oppression, without receiving a reward for their work:

וַיַּעֲבִ֧דוּ מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃ וַיְמָרְר֨וּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶ֜ם בַּעֲבֹדָ֣ה קָשָׁ֗ה בְּחֹ֙מֶר֙ וּבִלְבֵנִ֔ים וּבְכָל־עֲבֹדָ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה אֵ֚ת כָּל־עֲבֹ֣דָתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־עָבְד֥וּ בָהֶ֖ם בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃

"The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field". (Shmot 1:13-14)

When the time came, Yaacov found the opportunity to escape, with his wives and all that he had, to go free on the way home:

וַיָּ֖קָם יַעֲקֹ֑ב וַיִּשָּׂ֛א אֶת־בָּנָ֥יו וְאֶת־נָשָׁ֖יו עַל־הַגְּמַלִּֽים׃ וַיִּנְהַ֣ג אֶת־כָּל־מִקְנֵ֗הוּ וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכֻשׁוֹ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁ ... לָב֛וֹא אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק אָבִ֖יו אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן... וַיִּבְרַ֥ח הוּא֙ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ

Thereupon Yaacov put his children and wives on camels; and he drove off all his livestock and all the wealth that he had amassed…, to go to his father Yitzchak in the land of Canaan… and fled with all that he had. (Bereshit 31:17-21)

Thus, ended the exile of Haran. So also, in the exile from Egypt, his sons, left Egypt in the middle of the night in a hurry, with all their possessions:

וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֗יְלָה וַֽה' הִכָּ֣ה כָל־בְּכוֹר֮ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַיִם֒ ... וַיִּקְרָא֩ לְמֹשֶׁ֨ה וּֽלְאַהֲרֹ֜ן לַ֗יְלָה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ק֤וּמוּ צְּאוּ֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ עַמִּ֔י ...

"In the middle of the night Hashem struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt… He summoned Moshe and Aaron in the night and said, “Up, depart from among my people"… (Shmot 12:29-31),

כִּ֣י בְחִפָּז֗וֹן יָצָ֙אתָ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם

"for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly" (Devarim 16:3)

In both enslaving departures, the exploiter did not give up. Laban pursued Yaacov, and even caught him:

וַיֻּגַּ֥ד לְלָבָ֖ן בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י כִּ֥י בָרַ֖ח יַעֲקֹֽב׃ וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֶת־אֶחָיו֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וַיִּרְדֹּ֣ף אַחֲרָ֔יו דֶּ֖רֶךְ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים וַיַּדְבֵּ֥ק אֹת֖וֹ בְּהַ֥ר הַגִּלְעָֽד׃

"On the third day, Laban was told that Yaacov had fled. So, he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days, catching up with him in the hill country of Gilead". (Bereshit 31:22-23)

Without G-d's explicit threat, he would have probably also hurt him:

וַיָּבֹ֧א אֱלֹקים אֶל־לָבָ֥ן הָאֲרַמִּ֖י בַּחֲלֹ֣ם הַלָּ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הִשָּׁ֧מֶר לְךָ֛ פֶּן־תְּדַבֵּ֥ר עִֽם־יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִטּ֥וֹב עַד־רָֽע׃

"But Hashem appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Beware of attempting anything with Yaacov, good or bad.” (ibid 24).

Even at the Exodus from Egypt the Egyptian exploiters changed their minds and persecuted the people of Israel:

וַיֻּגַּד֙ לְמֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם כִּ֥י בָרַ֖ח הָעָ֑ם וַ֠יֵּהָפֵךְ לְבַ֨ב פַּרְעֹ֤ה וַעֲבָדָיו֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וַיֹּֽאמרוּ֙ מַה־זֹּ֣את עָשִׂ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־שִׁלַּ֥חְנוּ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵעָבְדֵֽנוּ… וַיְחַזֵּ֣ק ה' אֶת־לֵ֤ב פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיִּרְדֹּ֕ף אַחֲרֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל

"When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers had a change of heart about the people and said, “What is this we have done, releasing Israel from our service?... Hashem stiffened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he gave chase to the Israelites…(Shmot 14:5-8)

The Egyptians caught up with them by the seashore:

וַיִּרְדְּפ֨וּ מִצְרַ֜יִם אַחֲרֵיהֶ֗ם וַיַּשִּׂ֤יגוּ אוֹתָם֙ חֹנִ֣ים עַל־הַיָּ֔ם

"the Egyptians gave chase to them, overtook them encamped by the sea" (Ibid 9)

Were it not for the divine miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and their drowning in the sea, the Egyptians would have harmed them.

On returning home from Haran, Yaakov, who went down there single and empty handed, returned with a glorious family, and with a lot of property that he gained for his hard labor with Laban's flock:

וַיִּפְרֹ֥ץ הָאִ֖ישׁ מְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־לוֹ֙ צֹ֣אן רַבּ֔וֹת וּשְׁפָחוֹת֙ וַעֲבָדִ֔ים וּגְמַלִּ֖ים וַחֲמֹרִֽים׃

"So the man grew exceedingly prosperous, and came to own large flocks, maidservants and menservants, camels and asses". (Bereshit 30:43)

וַיִּנְהַ֣ג אֶת־כָּל־מִקְנֵ֗הוּ וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכֻשׁוֹ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁ מִקְנֵה֙ קִנְיָנ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר רָכַ֖שׁ בְּפַדַּ֣ן אֲרָ֑ם

"and he drove off all his livestock and all the wealth that he had amassed, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-Aram" (Ibid 31:18)

On the way out of Egypt to the Land of Israel, Beit Yaacov went down to Egypt as a family, because of the famine:

בְּשִׁבְעִ֣ים נֶ֔פֶשׁ יָרְד֥וּ אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ מִצְרָ֑יְמָהּ ...

"Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons in all…" (Devarim 10:22)

And on the way out they come out as one nation. שישים ריבוא (600,000)

וַיִּסְע֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מֵרַעְמְסֵ֖ס סֻכֹּ֑תָה כְּשֵׁשׁ־מֵא֨וֹת אֶ֧לֶף רַגְלִ֛י הַגְּבָרִ֖ים לְבַ֥ד מִטָּֽף׃

"The Israelites journeyed from Raamses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children" (Shmot 12:37)

When they left, they took with them much of the Egyptians' property who enslaved them and did not pay their salaries:

וּבְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל עָשׂ֖וּ כִּדְבַ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַֽיִּשְׁאֲלוּ֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם כְּלֵי־כֶ֛סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָ֖ב וּשְׂמָלֹֽת׃ וַֽה' נָתַ֨ן אֶת־חֵ֥ן הָעָ֛ם בְּעֵינֵ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם וַיַּשְׁאִל֑וּם וַֽיְנַצְּל֖וּ אֶת־מִצְרָֽיִם... וְגַם־עֵ֥רֶב רַ֖ב עָלָ֣ה אִתָּ֑ם וְצֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר מִקְנֶ֖ה כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃

The Israelites had done Moshe’s bidding and borrowed from the Egyptians objects of silver and gold, and clothing. And Hashem had disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people, and they let them have their request; thus, they stripped the Egyptians… Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. (Shmot 12:35-38)

The pattern of Yaacov's descent into exile comes to teach us that exile did not come by choice, but by coercion. The situation in exile was very bad and there was always a longing to return home, which became real as soon as it was possible. And we must learn from this.

In the first global wave of the Covid-19, many of the Jews living in the world were strengthened by the insight that in a time of crisis it was better for them to return home, some returning in a hurry, on the last flights before the skies closed. The issue of immigration – Aliyah to Israel started being on the agenda again.

On the eve of Shabbat Parashat Vayetzeh 5781, we again call our brothers from all over the world "Come back home"! The time has come!

An appointed time for Torah study in the everyday life 
The Parasha in the daily Life - Parashat Vayetze - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780
On Yaacov's departure to Haran, he returns to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash for another fourteen years: "Hizekiah said: "At the age of sixty-three our father Yaacov received the blessings. Stayed another fourteen years at Eber's" (Bereshit Rabbah 68:5). 
In our Beit Midrash we usually ask: Why does Yaacov return to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash? After all, Yaacov had studied there before in his youth? אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃
"There is no one who would labor at the Torah as our ancestor Yaacov did. It is just as you say (in Bereshit 25:27): But Yaacov was a perfect man dwelling in tents. It's not written here 'dwelling in a tent' but dwelling in tents. He would go out from the Beit Midrash of Shem and enter the Beit Midrash of Eber. Then he would go from the Beit Midrash of Eber to Abraham's Beit Midrash. (Midrash Tanchuma Buber Vayishlach 9)
According to this Midrash's count, Yaakov is already sixty-three years old! Why doesn't he rush to Laban's house to start his own family? Why is he delaying the establishment of his family from which Am Israel is to start? And why did he go to Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash?
Some have said that the Shem and Eber's Beit Midrash was special in that its founders faced extraordinary spiritual challenges, and a challenging environment: "Shem, Noah's son who was saved from the flood generation, was saved not only from the flood waters but also from the flood generation people and environment and their destruction. Eber was born and lived in this same generation, of those who wanted to build a tower with its head in heaven to rebel against G-d, but he did not drift away with them and remained in his righteousness. Only Shem and Eber, who remained untouched of these corrupt environments, and not Abraham and Yitzhak, could have taught Yaacov the Torah he needed to remain undisturbed in the environment of Laban, a corrupt and wicked man". ("Emet Le'Yaacov" to Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, p. 164-166).
In our Beit Midrash we usually answer the question in a way that might teach us about the purpose of the Beit Midrash: 
Yaakov embarks on his great mission to start Am Israel, a great long-term mission, and he will face challenges he had not experienced so far. In order to fulfill the mission, he must return to the Beit Midrash and engage clearly in Torah study. Hence, the beginning of every major and meaningful move in the public and private's life must include a thorough, in-depth, and renewed Torah study in the Beit Midrash (this is also how we interpret Yehuda's mission to establish the Beit Midrash in Goshen before the descent to Egypt, and the beginning of Am Israel).
In our times, many high school graduates choose to devote a significant amount of time to 'learning Torah for its own sake' in the Beit Midrash. Among the many learning objectives there is the personality building and preparation for the spiritual challenges they will face in their daily lives and during their military service. There are graduates, girls and lads, who return to the Beit Midrash for another significant period, "just to study Torah" after their military and national service, before they go on with their lives. 
This study provides them with tools to continue their studies afterwards, and to "set times for Torah" - till one hundred and twenty! And to incorporate these "Torah times" into the complex and demanding practical life tasks: relationships, home and family, profession and livelihood, continued personal development, integration into the community and working on behalf of the public.
The Torah learning is the most important Mitzvah in the Torah: 
וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם
"And the study of the Torah is equal to them all". (Mishnah Peah 1:1)
This obligation is imposed on everyone in every stage of life: "Every man in Israel is obliged to study the Torah, whether he be poor or rich, whether he be physically healthy or ailing, whether he be in full vigor of youth or of great age and weakened vitality; even if he be dependent upon alms for his livelihood, or going around from door to door begging his daily bread, yea, even he who has a wife and children to support is obliged to have an appointed time for the study of the Torah, both during the day and at night, for it is said: "But thou shalt meditate therein day and night" (Rambam Mishneh Torah-Torah Study 1:8).
The "appointed daily time" is also the guarantee to keep the Torah in the daily life, as a Torah that is applied in life and not only as a conceptual theory that exists among those sitting in the Beit Midrash, who are not challenged in the field of life. 
יָפֶה תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, שֶׁיְּגִיעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם מְשַׁכַּחַת עָוֹן
"Excellent is the study of the Torah when combined with a worldly occupation, for toil in them both keeps sin out of one’s mind" (Pirkei Avot 2:2)
Torah marks the values and goals of life. From it, we derive the spiritual and mental strength to deal with life's challenges and it is the secret of success. Daily learning also influences the surroundings, for them to be full of moral and sacred values in the everyday life.
 

Settlement or dominance and discouragement

Parsha and its Implementation - Parashat Vayetze - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5769

The text describes the meeting between Jacob and Rachel at the well: " … Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she tended them. And continues… And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.  And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son… (Genesis 29, 9-12). According to Chazal, it is already here that Yaakov is "proposing" to Rachel to marry him:

"He said to her: מינסבת לי? (would you marry me?) אמרה ליה: אין! מיהו אבא רמאה הוא ולא יכלת ליה (Yes, but my father is a fraud and will not be able to). אמר לה: מאי רמאותיה? (He said, what is his deceit) אמרה ליה: אית לי אחתא דקשישא מינאי, ולא מנסבא לי מקמה (I have a sister older than me and will not marry me before her)) אמר לה: אחיו אני ברמאות! I can also cheat). אמרה ליה: ומי שרי להו לצדיקי לסגויי ברמאותא? (Is it permissible for the righteous to be deceitful? אין! . ((Yes, since it is written): "With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure; and with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself subtle. " (II Samuel 22:27), and a previous verse says: " With the merciful Thou dost show Thyself merciful, with the upright man Thou dost show Thyself upright". In other words, with an honest man, you have to behave honestly and with a deceitful person you have to behave accordingly as not to fall into his net.

From the very first moment Yaakov understands who Lavan is. And how he should be handled. Lavan is the master of manipulation and deceit who did not hesitate to cross red lines and "sanctify all means" in order to realize his own interests. Jacob was an innocent man but not naive! If necessary, he can conduct himself 'his brother in deceit'. Jacob's basic assumption was that Lavan would not abide by the agreement and would violate it as soon as it would serve his interests. In an agreement with Lavan, he had to provide an effective response to his fraud. Yaakov entered into an agreement from the beginning with his hands on the bottom, as 'lacking everything' who came to a foreign country and asks for a home. Jacob's options were limited. Lavan was in a position of control and Yaakov has no means of deterrence. So, he gives signs between himself and Rachel and brings to the agreement a detailed and precise definition: "your youngest daughter Rachel". (See Rashi, Genesis 29:18).

Despite it all, he managed to deceive him, and Jacob learned his lesson from this when he ran away from him at the end of the Parashah.

These things take on a current significance in light of what is happening this week in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization with a fundamentalist Islamist ideology. Its purpose is not only control of Gaza and Judea and Samaria, but also the destruction of the State of Israel - the 'occupation' within the borders of the 1948 borders. Throughout the years, the State of Israel has held the position that there is no negotiation with a terrorist organization.

The pursuit of the current arrangement is a strategic change of policy. Which legitimizes de facto Hamas as a sovereign state. The 'arrangement' puts the State of Israel and Hamas on the same plane. Even though the State of Israel is in a position of control and Israel has a huge strategic advantage. According to supporters of the arrangement, the alternative to Hamas will be worse. Even though this is a claim that cannot be proven.

But they also believe that if Hamas is a sovereign body, we should deal with them the way we fight a country, not a non-state organization. According to Hamas' Islamist conception, the 'settlement' and' hudna' in the first place were meant to be only' time-outs' in order to reorganize themselves for the next opportunity, and it is permissible and even necessary to deceive the enemy. On the other hand, the State of Israel will undoubtedly stand by every sign of the agreement, and the world will examine every move we make.

They also believe that the State of Israel, which has the power, must produce painful concessions in any agreement that will deter Hamas from breaking the agreement.

Only then is there a chance that the agreement will be respected over time.

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

For the “Yeadim Nifgashim” for Shabbat Vayetze

Yaakov Returned to the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever.
The Midrash Rabbah on the Parsha tells us that while Yaakov was on his way to Haran, he returned to the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever for another fourteen years, and only afterwards Yaakov proceeded to Haran. Our sages teach us that Yaakov had already studied there in his youth, as the previous Parsha says: "The boys grew up and Esav became a hunter, a man of the field. And Yaakov an honest man, a dweller of tents." The Midrash Rabba explains: Two tents-the Beit Midrash of Shem and the Beit Midrash of Ever. So the question arises: Why did Yaakov return to the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever? And why just now?
Yitzchak and Rivka sent Yaakov to his uncle Lavan to marry one of his daughters and start his own family. And not just any family, but the family that will be the foundation for Am Israel!
The Midrash calculates that Yaakov was sixty-three years old at the time. So why didn't he go straight to Lavan?
There is someone who would like to explain that Yaakov's reason for going to the Beit Midrash of Shem an Ever was to hide from Esav. But in our Beit Midrash we explain this differently.
Yaakov had a great, far-reaching purpose to return to the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever. Yaakov went to Haran in order to turn the family of Avraham and Yitzchak into a nation. The Chosen People is entering a new era and is starting on a new path. For this, we have to undergo a transformation in our form of leadership: from the leadership of a family to the leadership of a nation. Every time Am Israel reaches a new stage in its national life, we have to clarify our direction: what we must do and how must we do it. For Am Israel, this clarification comes from one source: from the Torah. This requires deep, intensive and comprehensive Torah study. For this purpose Yaakov returned to the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for another fourteen years – to learn the Torah of the nation.
In our yeshiva, we learn from this the strategic role of Torah study and its clarifications, as the starting point for mapping out our steps as a nation, our steps toward the future. Our goal in our Beit Midrash is for our students to build themselves in Torah, not only as individuals but also knowing what Am Israel needs as a nation and a State. This is a very special kind of Torah study.
Yaakov's prophetic vision.
We also learn about Yaakov's special journey from his prophetic dream, about "Jacob's ladder."
After Yaakov left the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever, he continued to Beit El, where he had the dream of the ladder that reaches the sky, and angels going up and down.
This dream is actually Yaakov's prophetic vision: for the near and distant future; for himself, for Am Israel end for the world. This is Yaakov's strategic vision - his plan of action for the future.
Some of our sages explain the vision of the ladder as predicting that Yaakov will be the third father, completing thetrilogy of the "Avot".
There are those who explain that Yaakov foresaw Moshe, G-d's angel, ascending and descending Mount Sinai.
Others interpret the vision as the altar of Beit Hamikdash, where the Kohanim ascend and descend.
Still others say that Yaakov foresaw the future of Beit Hamikdash – that it will be built and destroyed.
There is an explanation that Yaakov foresaw the history of the world – that the nations and their leaders will go up on the center stage of history, make their mark, and then sink into oblivion. And only Am Israel will rise up and never descend.
The Rambam and Rabbeinu Nissim– explained that the angels are actually prophets and lofty men who ascend to heaven to the spiritual world, but have to descend to this world in order to radiate their positive influence. And this way they connect heaven and earth, the spiritual world with the physical world.
What the fathers did is a sign for the sons. We have to learn from Yaakov to develop a strategic vision, and not see only the here and now.

The Need for a Forward-Looking Strategic Approach.
Authentic leadership, generally, and in the national-religious community specifically, must develop its own forward-looking strategic view; a long-term vision. The Jewish ideal is grand and long-term, and we must ask where we wish to see ourselves and Israeli society as a whole, in ten years or more. This strategic conclusion must be translated into initiatives – an operational plan, detailing what must be done directly and indirectly in order to achieve the goal. Otherwise, we will continue to find ourselves on the defensive, constantly involved in creating bulwarks and putting out fires, in response to challenges and directives initiated by others, and in attempts, at damage control.
We will not list here our past and current failures caused by a lack of any long-term strategic vision, or by allocating resources in the wrong direction, distracting us from obvious needs.
We were privileged to witness an example of strategic vision when our teacher, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, zt”l, focused attention on the consequences of the settlement enterprise for the future of the State of Israel. Or when Rabbi Neriya, zt”l, founded the network of yeshivas and ulpanot as a future infrastructure for the spiritual-moral underpinnings of religious-Zionism in the Land of Israel. Or in the strategic vision of Rabbi Soloveitchik, zt”l, when he created the model for combining religion and modernity in the United States.
“It was an act of charity for the world when the Holy One, blessed be He, did not allocate all skills to one place or to one nation….” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot, 152)
We are called upon to develop a religious-Zionist strategic dialogue to address the challenges of the future. And the sooner, the better.

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