Even in Charan

Yaakov Avinu had just arrived in Charan when he asked himself, “How could I have passed the place where my fathers davened and not have davened there myself?” He promptly decided to return to Eretz Yisrael so that he could daven on Har Hamoriah in Yerushalayim, where the Akeidah had taken place and where the Beis Hamikdash would later be built. Immediately he “encountered” this place — which he named Beis E-l.

The concept of kefitzas haderech — of an individual miraculously reaching a distant location in a very short time — is mentioned earlier in the Torah. Nearly a century before, Eliezer had merited kefitzas haderech in his own journey to Charan to find a shidduch for Yitzchak.

But in this case it was not the traveler who instantly covered the great distance from Yerushalayim to Charan. Instead, Yerushalayim actually came to Charan.

Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, gives a very powerful explanation of this phenomenon.

Until that point, Yaakov Avinu had spent all his time basking in the presence of greatness in the holy abodes of his father’s tent and in the yeshivah of Shem and Ever. Now he had arrived in a bastion of impurity, surrounded by evildoers and idol worshippers. Yaakov Avinu wondered how it was possible to live a life of Torah and piety in such surroundings.

Therefore, Hakadosh Baruch Hu brought Har Hamoriah to Charan to show that even in a location such as Charan it is possible to serve Hashem. Yaakov Avinu understood the message at once, and he davened tefillas Maariv, which he established at that time.

But while he now realized that one can achieve holiness even in a place of impurity and evil, he assumed that this capacity was limited and that one could achieve only a limited level of holiness under such circumstances.

However, when the Ribbono shel Olam revealed Himself to Yaakov Avinu and he saw the ladder reaching to the high Heavens, he declared, “How awesome is this place! It is none other than the abode of Hashem!” It became clear to Yaakov that even in a location like Charan, it was possible to reach the loftiest strata of holiness and righteousness.

Harav Moshe adds that this is a great lesson. A person should not become despondent and say, “In this generation and in this place it is difficult to reach sheleimus.” He should not be satisfied with only a little Torah and a few mitzvos.  He should realize that in this location he should and can reach sheleimus in Torah and in his conduct.

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Elsewhere in this same parashah, Rav Moshe teaches us another powerful lesson about how we should relate to the galus we are in.

When Yaakov Avinu informed Rochel and Leah that Hashem had instructed him to return to the land of his birth, they initially responded, “Have we still a share and inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not considered by him as strangers, for he has sold us?”

At first glance this seems perplexing. Our Imahos, whose level of righteousness defies our comprehension, certainly would have been prepared to obey the will of Hashem even if it meant giving up an incredible fortune. So why did it matter if they had no share or inheritance in the house of Lavan?

Rav Moshe explains that the Imahos were teaching us how to approach avodas Hashem. When one emphasizes the difficulty of the nisyonos he has faced, even if he is filled with satisfaction over having successfully passed those tests, he is conveying to his children the idea that it is difficult to be a Yid.

Conversely, one who has proper emunah realizes, for example, that since parnassah is solely in the Hands of Hashem, he cannot possibly lose money by keeping Shabbos or going to daven. Therefore, what is seen by some as a great nisayon is actually a much smaller one.

Rochel and Leah replied to Yaakov Avinu by stressing that it was not a nisayon for them to listen to Hashem; it was easy for them to do so.

May the Ribbono shel Olam grant us the emunah to internalize the fact that we can reach the loftiest levels while surrounded by extreme adversity, and may we have the wisdom to respond properly to the nisyonos we face.