Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind

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When Yaakov is on his way from Be’er Sheba to Haran he stops on Har HaMoriah where he has the famous dream of the ladder that extends from the ground with its head reaching the heavens upon which angels are ascending and descending.

That is when God appears to Yaakov to reaffirm the promise he gave to his father and grandfather.

הִנֵּ֨ה יְהֹוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב עָלָיו֘ וַיֹּאמַר֒ אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֗ה אֱלֹהֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יךָ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֖י יִצְחָ֑ק הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ שֹׁכֵ֣ב עָלֶ֔יהָ לְךָ֥ אֶתְּנֶ֖נָּה וּלְזַרְעֶֽךָ:
And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.

Hashem declares to Yaakov that He is the God of his father Avraham and the God of Yitzchak. Yitzchak is Yaakov’s father, not Avraham, so why does God call Avraham Yaakov’s father in the same verse that mentions his real father?

God requires Yaakov to experience the same type of journey that he demanded of  Avraham, taking them out of their comfort zones on a path that leads to a more expansive self. Avraham was steeped in chesed/kindness and had to be taught to add a measure of gevurah/strength to achieve the necessary balance. Hakarat hatov, having gratitude, was so ingrained in his nature that he may have felt compelled to stay and give of himself to his extended family and mother country thereby necessitating the divine command to move on. Yaakov, on the other hand, was much like Yitzchak and had a nature of din/gevurah. He did not feel a sense of chesed for his exhausted brother who felt on the brink of death but seized the opportunity to negotiate a binding deal for the birthright before allowing him to partake of his sustenance. He, therefore, needed to experience what it was like to be treated harshly to earn his food by Lavan for many years in order to ingrain in him the sensitivity that is a hallmark of chesed. When God refers to Avraham as his father He is indicating to Yaakov that he has the genetic material within him that simply needs to be activated.

Therefore, both of them are sent on a journey away from their parents’ home and the land from which they had come from and identified with until that point in time.

In both instances, we are told they had to וַיֵּצֵ֥א/go out from and וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ go towards.
Both of them needed to leave a part of who they were behind to move toward building a vital part of their identity.

וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה
And Jacob left Beer Sheba, and he went to Haran.

This parallels the language used for his grandfather Avraham:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָ֑רָן וַיֵּֽצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֨כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן                                                                                                          And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.

It then says:

וַיֵּרָ֤א יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְזַ֨רְעֲךָ֔ אֶתֵּ֖ן אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את וַיִּ֤בֶן שָׁם֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לַֽיהֹוָ֖ה הַנִּרְאֶ֥ה אֵלָֽיו:וַיַּעְתֵּ֨ק מִשָּׁ֜ם הָהָ֗רָה מִקֶּ֛דֶם לְבֵֽית־אֵ֖ל וַיֵּ֣ט אָֽהֳלֹ֑ה בֵּֽית־אֵ֤ל מִיָּם֙ וְהָעַ֣י מִקֶּ֔דֶם וַיִּֽבֶן־שָׁ֤ם מִזְבֵּ֨חַ֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהֹוָֽה                          And the Lord appeared to Abram, and He said, “To your seed, I will give this land,” and there he built an altar to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

This is the same promise that Gd now gives Yaakov when he too left his parents home.

הִנֵּ֨ה יְהֹוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב עָלָיו֘ וַיֹּאמַר֒ אֲנִ֣י יְהֹוָ֗ה אֱלֹהֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יךָ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֖י יִצְחָ֑ק הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ שֹׁכֵ֣ב עָלֶ֔יהָ לְךָ֥ אֶתְּנֶ֖נָּה וּלְזַרְעֶֽךָ:
And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.

And just like Avraham, who on the heels of the promise, was forced to leave and suffer at the hands of unsavory folk in a foreign land so too, Yaakov, was forced to leave Israel and live with Lavan for 20 years right after he received the promise of a future in the land of Israel. While it might seem to many as a test, and so it is referred to by many commentators, I see it as quite the opposite. It seems to me that it was a Divine assurance that was given to them at a time when they most desperately would need a raison détre to get them through the difficulties they were about to encounter. Avraham while in Egypt and Yaakov while in the house of Lavan. Therefore, God girds them with a promise for the future immediately preceding their challenges so they may find the strength to get through the hardships that they will encounter. As Viktor E. Frankl, says in Man’s Search for Meaning ”Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

About the Author
Aliza Lipkin is a firm lover and believer in her country, her people and her G-d. She moved from the land of the free (America) to the home of the brave (Israel) 10 years ago and now resides with her family in Maaleh Adumim.
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