Yaakov was forced to leave home because his brother Esav had vowed to kill him. This week’s portion begins with Yaakov’s journey (Genesis 28:10):
י) וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה
10) Yaakov left Beer Sheva and travelled towards Charan.
Rashi focuses on the question, “Why did the Torah need to tell us that Yaakov left Be’er Sheva?” The Torah had already told us (26:23) that Yitzchak had moved to Be’er Sheva, so of course that’s where Yaakov left from! The story should have begun,“וילך יעקב חרנה” “Yaakov travelled towards Charan” (and the name of this portion would have been “Vayelech” instead of “Vayeitzei!”)
ויצא – לא היה צריך לכתוב אלא וילך יעקב חרנה! ולמה הזכיר יציאתו? אלא מגיד שיציאת צדיק מן המקום עושה רושם, שבזמן שהצדיק בעיר הוא הודה הוא זיוה הוא הדרה; יצא משם פנה הודה פנה זיוה פנה הדרה
All that the verse needed to say was that Yaakov went to Charan. Why did the Torah mention his leaving? To inform us that a Tzadik leaving a place makes an impression. When the Tzadik is in the city, he is its splendor, he is its radiance, and he is its glory. But when he leaves the city, its splendor, radiance, and glory also leave.
Commenting on this Rashi, the Maharal (d. 1609) explains that these three qualities refer to three specific benefits that the city receives from the Tzadik. The splendor refers to the Tzadik’s influence on the people to fear Hashem So that they do the commandments and refrain from committing sins. The radiance refers to the Torah wisdom that the Tzadik imparts to the people, and the glory refers to the excellent character that the Tzadik exhibits from which people learn and model.
The Maharal then asks a question: Yitzchak and Rivka, two very righteous and holy people, remained in Be’er Sheva. So, what prompted Rashi to say that the splendor, radiance, and glory left with Yaakov? Plenty of righteousness remained because of Yitzchak and Rivka!
To answer, he cites a Midrash that says: אין דומה זכות צדיק אחד לזכות שני צדיקים:
“You cannot compare the merit of one Tzadik to the merit of two Tzadikim.”
This answer’s simple understanding is that “two are better than one.” There’s twice as much of the good stuff for people to benefit from; and when one leaves, a void is created. But there is a deeper meaning to this as well.
The Talmud in Tractate Horayos (13a) discusses the law of what to do where a king of Israel and a Talmid Chacham (Torah Scholar) are drowning and you can save only one of them. Whom do you save?
חכם קודם למלך ישראל חכם שמת אין לנו כיוצא בו מלך ישראל שמת כל ישראל ראוים למלכות
The Talmid Chacham comes first because when a Talmid Chacham dies, he cannot be replaced, whereas pretty much anyone can become a king of Israel.
Even though there may be many Talmidei Chachamim, no two are alike. Even if they know the same information (all of the Talmud, for example), that information is nevertheless refracted through the prism of each Talmid Chacham differently, giving each a unique flavor and perspective to his Torah. We can never have too many Talmidei Chachamim because we need to have the greatest spectrum of Torah so that each person can find the Talmid Chacham that expresses the Torah in the language that he understands and can identify with. This is why a Talmid Chacham is saved before a king: no two are the same, whereas a king is replaceable.
Therefore, even though Yitzchak and Yaakov were Tzadikim, each had a very different pathway to serving Hashem. This allowed them to grow from each other and to model different ways of serving Hashem from which people could learn, each person according to his nature and character. So, when Yaakov left, his unique splendor, radiance, and glory left with him. This created a great void that could not be filled by either of his parents Yitzchak or Rivka.
This information provides us with an answer to a different question that the Sages ask on Rashi’s answer.
Why did Rashi wait until this point in the Torah, when Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, to teach us this lesson? Why didn’t Rashi choose instead one of the verses in the Torah that informed us that Avraham or Yitzchak left a place?
Maybe Rashi waited until Yaakov to teach us the lesson that even though Yitzchak and Rivka were left behind, Yaakov’s leaving still created a great void.
There is another important answer to this question brought in the name of the Kol Yehudah:
Avraham Avinu was known and respected by the entire populated world. He had created a name for himself as Hashem’s ambassador and was influential in bringing belief in Hashem to tens of thousands of people. He was also very wealthy and ran a 5-star hotel.
Yitzchak, too, was also quite prominent and wealthy, and the local monarch visited him and made a treaty with him.
Yaakov, on the other hand, was just a yeshiva bochur (young man) sitting in the study hall learning Torah day and night. The Torah describes him as (25:28) איש תם יושב אוהלים – a perfect man who dwelt in a tent. He had nothing to do with the outside world. Not only that, but when Yitzchak and Rivka sent Yaakov away to Lavan’s house to find a wife, he didn’t go directly there. He rather took a detour, the Midrash tells us, and went to learn Torah in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. Fourteen years later, when Yaakov actually left Be’er Sheva, nobody knew that he had gone.
This is why Rashi waited until Yaakov to tell us of the void created when a holy person leaves a city. For Avraham and Yitzchak, who were so prominent and wealthy, their absence from the city would certainly create a tremendous loss; but in Yaakov’s case, since he just kept to himself and studied Torah all day, seemingly, nothing happened when he left! Therefore, Rashi had to tell us that in his case, also, leaving the city created a tremendous void.
This answer creates a greater question, though. Since Yaakov didn’t interact with anybody and just studied Torah day and night, how did his presence add splendor, radiance, and glory to the city?
Our Sages explain that not only does Torah learned privately in the bet hamidrash (study hall of a Yeshiva) bring splendor, radiance, and glory to the city, it is also the very stuff that keeps the world intact and running properly.
The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (5:1) says:
א) בַּעֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם
1)The world was created with ten pronouncements.
These are the instructions that we find in the six days of creation: “And Elokim said, ‘let there be light…”Hashem used words to create the world. What was the language that Hashem used to create the world? The language of the Torah- לשון הקודש – Lashon Hakodesh- the Holy Language, the one used to write the Torah.
Once Hashem made the pronouncements that created the world and everything in it, those words never ceased to exist; rather, they are still in existence, recreating the world every moment of every day. This concept is expressed in the verse in Psalms 119:89:
פט) לְעוֹלָם יְדֹוָד דְּבָרְךָ נִצָּב בַּשָּׁמָיִם
99) Forever, Hashem, Your word stands firm in the heavens.
This means that the words that Hashem used to create the world still stand firm in the heavens to continue the creation. This is something only Hashem could do, Whose original pronouncements are continuously being spoken and keep the world in existence.
The Zohar (attributed to Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai) explains that the recipes (groups of words) that Hashem used to create the world are in the Torah.
זכאין אינון כל אינון דמשתדלי באורייתא, בגין דכד ברא קודשא בריך הוא עלמא, אסתכל בה באורייתא וברא עלמא
Meritorious are all those who toil in the Torah because it was with it that Hashem created the world. Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world.
השתא כל מאן דאסתכל בה באורייתא ואשתדל בה, כביכול הוא מקיים כל עלמא, קודשא בריך הוא אסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא, בר נש מסתכל בה באורייתא ומקיים עלמא, אשתכח דעובדא וקיומא דכל עלמא אורייתא איהי, בגין כך זכאה איהו בר נש דאשתדל באורייתא
Therefore, whoever learns the Torah and toils in it is keeping the world in existence. Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world, and a person who looks into the Torah preserves the world’s existence. Thus, the world’s entire existence depends on the Torah. How great is the person who learns the Torah! (For he is Hashem’s partner in keeping the world alive.)
Two statements of the Sages expand this idea.
In his preface to the Torah, Rabbeinu Bachya (1255-1340) writes.
וכבר ביארו לנו חז”ל מעלת התורה ושלמותה והיאך היא כוללת העליונים והתחתונים, עד שהודיעונו שאילו נכתבה התורה כסדרה היה אדם יכול להחיות בה את המתים
Our Sages have already explained the greatness and completeness of the Torah, and how everything, the heavenly and worldly, are contained within it, to the point where they have revealed to us that if the Torah was written in the correct sequence, a person could use it to bring a dead person back to life.
Rabbeinu Peretz in his Talmud commentary (Pesachim 6b) quotes a Midrash that says that if the Torah were written in order, one could create with it.
זאת אומרת אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה, והטעם הוי כדאיתא במדרש [תנחומא תרומה ח’] דכת’ אורח חיים פן תפלס נעו מעגלותיה (ו)לא תדע, פי’ נעו מעגלותיה טילטל הקב”ה פרשיו’ של תורה שלא יהא אדם קורא פרשה קטנה ועושה בה כל חפצו ובורא כל מה שירצה, כן גיר’ הר”ר יחיאל מ”כ
The Torah is written out of order. The reason based on the Midrash Tanchuma (Teruma 8) is that Hashem mixed up the chapters of the Torah so that a person couldn’t read a small portion of the Torah and do with it what he pleases and create whatever he wants with it.
We have no clue how to do these things, but the potential for creation and life is in the Torah because the words of the Torah are the original words that created them in the first place.
We can bring this concept a little closer to home with an example from our modern word of computers.
When you look at a picture on your computer screen, you are really looking at the result of ones and zeros. How so? A computer programmer used 1s and 0s to write the code for the program to display that picture. Then, your computer’s Central Processing Unit (CPU) reads the many lines of code and translates it into the instructions to the video card to generate the picture that you see on the screen. Every second, each one of your screen’s 1,440,000 pixels is being told what color to shine to supply its part of the picture. While you can’t see the 1s and 0s that are responsible for the image that you are viewing, you know that they are being processed every second or your screen would not have that picture on it.
In the same sense, our surrounding material world is the product of the translation of the coded instructions using the words of the Torah, the words that Hashem’s used in His instructions to bring the world into creation.
A computer needs electricity to work. When the electricity goes off, all computing ceases and the screen goes blank. Since Hashem created the world with the spiritual words of the Torah, the world also needs a source of spiritual energy to power it. The spiritual energy that gives existence to the world is the learning of the Torah. Torah learningis the “electricity” that powers the world. How so? When people learn the Torah’s words, they are giving life to the very words that are at the source of the world’s existence, thus keeping our world alive and well.
Our Sages teach us that if Torah was not learned anywhere in the world for even one moment, the world would disintegrate and return to what it was before creation. Just as a computer can’t run without electricity for even one second, so, too, the world cannot run without its electricity – Torah- for even a second.
This analogy can also help us to understand the above statements of Rabbeinu Bachya and Rabbeinu Peretz. Just as a computer programmer can create a program to display any picture he pleases, so, too, when a person knows the words of the Torah that were used to create the world, he can use them for the same purpose.
This is why the study of Torah is its most important mitzvah. Those learning the Torah are actually partners with Hashem in sustaining the world. Additionally, since it touches the deepest sources of the world, it is ever so powerful.
This concept adds a new perspective to the answer of the Midrash that even though Yitzchak and Rivka remained in Be’er Sheva, two are better than one. Each Tzaddik adds a new layer of protection to the stability of the world.
In the early 1900’s, Polish Hospitals neglected Jewish patients. It was decided that a Jewish hospital that would provide excellent health care to Jewish patients, needed to be built. A drive to raise funds for the new hospital was organized in the Yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir Hakohen Kagan זצ”ל. People were donating money in increments of “beds” for the hospital. If it cost $10,000 for a bed, and one donated 10 beds, he was really donating $100,000. At one point during the drive, after noticing the yeshiva boys studying Torah, one of the wealthy participants raised his hand and sought the attention of the Chofetz Chaim. When the Chofetz Chaim acknowledged him, he asked, “Rebbe, how many beds are the Yeshiva boys donating?”
The Chofetz Chaim answered him. “Chaim is ‘donating’ that 10 beds should not be needed in the hospital, and Shlomo is ‘donating’ that 5 beds should not be needed in the hospital.” The Chofetz Chaim was invoking this concept. Because the study of Torah keeps the world running, when it is done properly and sufficiently, it keeps the world running smoothly and prevents bad things from happening.
Imagine a person has a terrible cough. He has a choice of two doctors to see. One doctor will examine him and give him a prescription for cough medicine. The other will take a sample of his blood, fix the gene at the source of his problem, and inject the corrected gene back into him to fix all the broken genes. Which option is the better option? Of course, fixing the problem from its source is the better option.
Similarly, the Torah remedies the issues at their sources.
This is why even though Yaakov just sat and continually learned Torah, he had a most profound effect on his surroundings. This is a most important lesson for us. Since this information is invisible to the naked eye, one might mistakenly think that those who dedicate their lives to the study of Torah don’t help the world at all with their Torah learning. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These holy people are keeping our world right side up and are at the root of every good thing going on in the world. We owe them our greatest support and gratitude for the good that they are doing for us and for our world.