Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life


The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » Vayetze

Vayetze: Is Leaving Israel a Descent?

Submitted by on December 4, 2005 – 3:28 amNo Comment | 2,828 views

To Haran

“And Jacob departed Beer Sheba and went towards Haran.” (Genesis 28, 10) When Abraham left Israel for Egypt the Torah characterized his departure as a descent. (Genesis 12, 10) Rashi explains that since Israel is the most exalted of all lands, all departures from Israel constitutes a descent. Why doesn’t the Torah describe Jacob’s departure as a descent?

Three Perspectives

  1. Malbim Says that Jacob’s departure from Israel was indeed a descent. The Torah does not describe it as such because this verse actually relates to his departure from Beer Sheba, before he actually crossed Israel’s borders. By documenting the genesis of his journey the Torah informs us that his decline began even before his full descent occurred at the border. Leaving Beer Sheba already triggered a departure from his spiritual clarity.
  2. Kli Yakar says that the word “departed” is intended to imply descent. He sees the descent as a psychological departure. Jacob completely departed his parents’ home not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He didn’t expect that Esau would ever let him return.
  3. Kedushas Levi, however, sees the departure in a positive light. Quoting Rashi, who maintains that when a righteous person departs a city he takes along the radiance, illumination and beauty of the city, the Kedushas Levi argues that Jacob’s departure was indeed not a descent. Though he left Israel its sanctity came right along with him.

    Israel Comes Along

    It is in this light that Kedushas Levi understands Rashi’s explanation to the G-d’s promise to Jacob, “Behold I am with you.” (Genesis 28, 15) Rashi explains that G-d showed Jacob a vision of the temple mount transplanted from its usual spot and brought right into Jacob’s camp. As Kedushas Levi sees this, Jacob was told that though he left Israel the sanctity of Israel would never leave him.


    Let us take a page from Jacob’s book and allow the land of Israel to enter into us. Perhaps in this merit G-d will smile upon us and allow us to enter into the land of Israel.