At the end of last week’s Parasha Rivka orders her son Yaakov to travel to Charan, to reside with her brother Lavan and to wait there until Eisav is no longer angry and vengeful at losing the birthright and its blessing to Yaakov.
This week’s Parasha opens with the words “Yaakov departed from Beer-Sheva and went to Charan.” (Bereishit 28:10) Although it appears from the verses that Yaakov immediately followed his mother’s command, when we calculate the days of Yaakov’s life we find that before Yaakov went to Charan he settled in the house of Eiver for fourteen years, where he studied Torah, and only then went to Charan. (Rashi according to Megilla 17a)
Why did Yaakov, at this point in his life, decide to go and learn Torah for such a long period of time?
Before answering this question we should note that the Gemara in Masechet Megilla 16b teaches that Yaakov was not punished for those years that he spent learning Torah even though by doing so he disobeyed his mother’s command. So, it appears, his decision was a correct one. The question still is why did Yaakov decide at that particular time in his life, to spend so much time learning Torah?
Many times, in the Midrashim, the Yeshivot of Shem and Eiver are presented as the places to which one goes to commune with God and to learn Torah. (see: Rashi on Berieshit 25: 22 and 27) What is the difference between the Beit Midrash of Shem and the Beit-Midrash of Eiver and why does the Gemara mention the Beit-Midrash of Eiver as the place Yaakov chooses to learn Torah before leaving for Charan?
It appears that the answer is that the Beit-Midrash of Shem is the place that one went to learn about Hashem – the creator of the world. The Beit-Midrash of Eiver was the Beit-Midrash that prepared one for to live in the broader society, based on the Hebrew word Ma’avar – transition. The learning in the Beit-Midrash of Eiver was one that facilitated a transition from the world of study to the world outside of the Beit-Midrash.
Yaakov, before leaving for Charan, understands that now he is forced to leave the protection of the environment in which he grew, the home of his righteous parents, and the holy Land of Israel to a place far from holy, to Charan and the house of Lavan. Yaakov is apprehensive, not only in the face of the physical challenges, but mostly in the face of the spiritual dangers this journey entailed. Therefore, before leaving for Charan he enters the Beit-Midrash of Eiver, where he knew he could learn the type of Torah that would prepare him for the complicated tasks awaiting him. Only after years of preparation does Yaakov feel ready. Indeed, as we learn in this week’s Parasha, Yaakov lives up to his title as one of our righteous forefathers, even after many years in a foreign land.
We too, living in a modern world full of spiritual dangers, need to fill ourselves with Torat Chaim, the type of Torah learning that prepares us for the complexities of life. Only then are we ready to venture forth to reveal the name Hashem to the world.