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"Making a Difference"

"Making a Difference"

Our parsha begins with the words, “And Ya’akov departed from Be’er Sheva and went toward Charan” (Parshas Vayeitzei, 28:10). Rashi on the spot cites a Bereishis Rabba (Parshas Vayeitzei, 68:6) which quotes Rebbi Azaria in the name of Rav Yehuda bar Simon, and Rav Chanin in the name of Reb Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak who points out that the verse only needed to say, “And Ya’akov went toward Charan.” The verse did not need to add, “And Ya’akov departed from Be’er Sheva,” because we already knew where Ya’akov was. If so, why did the pasuk find it necessary to mention Ya’akov’s departure?

The Midrash that Rashi cites answers this question by saying that the seemingly extra words, “And Ya’akov departed from Be’er Sheva,” comes to teach us that when a righteous person leaves a place, it has an impact on that place and upon the people of that place. As long as a tzaddik is in a city, he is its glory, splendor, and crown. When the tzaddik leaves that city, its glory, splendor, and crown depart with him.

This concept was not mentioned when Avraham or Yitzchak traveled to a new place. This idea is only emphasized with respect to Ya’akov when he journeyed to a new destination. Why is that?

One answer is that when Avraham and Yitzchak traveled to new places, they did not leave any tzaddikim behind. Therefore, their absence was really felt by everyone else. When Avraham and Yitzchak departed from any given place, they left a huge vacuum which was felt by everybody there. However, when Ya’akov departed, he left behind tzaddikim such as Yitzchak and Rivka. Therefore, one would think that the splendor, glory and crown did not disappear in Ya’akov’s absence because Yitzchak and Rivka were still there. One would think that on account of Yitzchak and Rivka, the glory, splendor, and crown still remained in the city.

This is precisely what Chaza”l (Chachameinu Zichronam Livracha; our Sages of blessed memory) are coming to teach us. Even when tzaddikim are left behind, the departure of a tzaddik from a place still has an effect, and an emptiness has still been created.

In his sefer, Ta’am Vada’as, Rav Moshe Shterbuch adds another explanation to address this question as to why this idea about a tzaddik leaving a place is only mentioned with respect to Ya’akov Avinu. He says that Avraham and Yitzchak were already spiritual leaders when they left from place to place. Therefore, when they departed from any given place, it is obvious that their absence was felt by all. Therefore, there was no need for the Torah to emphasize the obvious.

However, when Ya’akov left Eretz Yisrael, he was not yet a leader. Rather, he was still a student who studied in the yeshivos of Shem and Eiver (Rashi, Parshas Toldos, 25:27; based on Bereishis Rabba, Parshas Toldos, 63:10). Nevertheless, the Torah is teaching us that so long as Ya’akov was within the city he was its jewel, and with his departure from that city, that city lost its jewel.

This teaches us a novel idea about Talmidei Chachamim (Torah scholars). That is, a Talmud Chacham is the city’s glory, splendor, and crown even if he spends all of his time within the dalet amos shel Torah (four cubits of Torah). This means to say that even if he is not actively involved with the people of the city by teaching them or by taking a position of authority and leadership, his contribution of Torah learning is still priceless.

Maybe he is not yet ready to lead or paskin. Maybe he does not possess the personality to become a classroom teacher. Even so, his efforts of delving into the holy Torah are of great benefit to the city and its people. Learning Torah alone infuses the entire area with sanctity and purity.

One take-away message of this teaching would be to appreciate, even more so, Torah learners in our cities because they are the crowning jewels of the city and they bring glory and splendor to it.

Another lesson that could be gleaned from this teaching would be to realize, even more so, that every mitzva that we do and every single word of Torah that we utter is having a tremendous impact on us, on our city, and upon the entire world. Even if a person is not the president of a chesed organization, and even if a person is not a Rav or Rebbetzin of a shul, every single mitzva that we do and every word of Torah that we study is injecting holiness into ourselves, into our neighborhoods, and ultimately into the entire world.

Sometimes it may seem to some people that the mitzvos we do and the Torah we study are insignificant and inconsequential. But the truth is that we are having a huge impact upon ourselves and on society at large. This thought alone could increase the amount of effort, time, and concentration that we invest in our Torah and mitzvos.

Just by knowing that we can make such a huge difference can make us feel an even greater sense of responsibility which could propel us to push ourselves a little bit more, which ultimately makes our world an even better place to live in.

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