This is a (hopefully) daily series of short reflections in English on the daily chapter of Tanach in the (wonderful, wonderful) 929 Project. The initiative, and the ideas and opinions expressed here, are my own. If you haven’t heard of 929, you can learn more at 929.org.il
Robert Frost wrote that “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” The definition resonates powerfully, harshly with Jewish experience. But before getting to the stage of needing to return home, Frost is saying that you can’t really define a place as home until you’ve left it. The value of ‘Home’ is not in being a place but a portal, at once a departure point and an end point. For an infant to mature, he must develop a sense of ‘firm attachment’- the understanding that he can detach from mother, explore the world, make mistakes, suffer, and return to a safe space. The adolescent needs the same in order to transition to adulthood. This is Yaakov’s vision as he is about to set out to a difficult, archetypal period of exile. Only at the moment he is about to leave it can the land that Yaakov had always taken as a given begin to take on significance for him. To Avraham, say the rabbis, it was a mountain, an enormous, unknown challenge. For Yitzchak, who never left, it was a field, a place holding within it great inner potential. Yaakov has a vision of the land as a ‘gateway to heaven’, the place that his journey requires he leave, and to which he will return, a place whose very mission to bring blessing to all nations requires the transcending of our boundaries. For the first time in the Torah, this land is called our home. Yaakov is forced to leave, but he also leaves with a mission. The same combination of coercion and choice exists on his return, and indeed, continues to this day to define “the inheritance of Jacob”, our dream to make this place our Home.