Vayatzai 2006

This weekís Parsha, Parshas Vayatzai begins with the departure of Jacob from Beer Sheva, in Israel, to Charan. The Torah tells us Vayaitzai Yaakov Mbeer Sheva, Vayailech Charana Ė ďand Jacob left from Beer Sheva, and went to CharanĒ. The question is raised, why did the Torah have to tell us that Jacob left from Beer Sheva? Wouldnít it be obvious that if he went to Charan, that he must have left from Beer Shava? Why would the Torah, which is so careful not to even use an extra letter, have to spell this out to us? The Sages tell us that the Torah wants to make a point here. What makes a place famous? Why is a town considered noteworthy? How do we measure the value of a particular community? Often we will be told of a famous actor, well-known politician, or popular author who lived in a particular area. That, the Torah tells us, is not what gives beauty or credit to a town. When a tzadik, a righteous individual, lives in a place, that makes the place special. When he leaves, that is a devastating loss to the place. When Jacob left Beer Sheva, there was a real change to the town. It lost its claim to fame, its beauty, its special status. Why does the Torah teach us this lesson regarding the departure of Jacob? Didnít Abraham also leave many places? Werenít those places affected by his departure? What was unique about the departure of Jacob? When Abraham left a town, there was no one else there to fill in his shoes. It was obvious that the town from which he had left was now left with a tremendous void. Everyone can appreciate that if there is one special spiritual guide in a town, he fills the role of being the light of inspiration for his community. When Jacob left town, however, there were other tzadikim (righteous individuals) who stayed there. Issac and Rebecca were still living in Beer Sheva. One could have felt that the loss to the town was not so overwhelming. Perhaps it didnít really make such a difference to the status of Beer Sheva. After all, we still had Issac and Rebecca. Here we are taught an additional lesson. It isnít the same to have three righteous individuals, as it is to have two. The more we have the merit to be surrounded by good people, the more special of a place we ourselves live in. When we want to assign a value to any given place in our mind, it isnít the size of the houses that should determine that; it isnít even the rate of property taxes, or which public figures live there; itís the tzadikim, the righteous people, who make our living places special.