As a parent, I sometimes get the feeling that I answered my child’s question with too many words. It feels like I overstepped a boundary and, when I cannot backtrack, I need to explain further. The opening verse of Vayetzei reads kind of like that. “And Jacob went out of Beersheba…” Period. Hard stop. The verse could have ended right there, but wait, there’s more. “…And [Jacob] went towards Haran.” The great French rabbi and Torah commentator Rashi comments that “it need have written simply 'And Jacob went to Haran.' Why then does it mention his departure from Beersheba?” It is a good and fair question to which Rashi gives an even better answer, owing partially to the fact that, according to many, Jacob is a flawed character.
In my opinion, Rashi is trying to prop up Jacob in our eyes. Consider how Jacob deceived family members up to this point for the purpose of getting the blessing of the birthright. Usually the guilty person flees the scene, right? Why then are we told that Jacob left and he went towards Haran? “It intends to tell us,” says Rashi, “that the departure of a righteous person from his city makes an impression.” He writes, “As long as a righteous man is in his city he is its glory and splendor and beauty; when he leaves it, there depart also its glory, its splendor and its beauty.”
This weekend — Parashat Vayetzei — is the senior class Shabbaton that I am excited to attend. This Shabbaton is the kickoff to Lev v'Nefesh, our twelfth-grade students’ journey to Poland and Israel, and while I am not rushing the seniors out the door, I see their Lev v’Nefesh journey as being as much about them leaving SW for a couple of months as it is about where they are headed — to Poland and Israel. As seniors, they have made an impression on so many of us and their trip will imprint upon us and them. They are part of the glory and splendor and beauty of Schechter Westchester, and, when they leave, they will take a degree of beauty and splendor of the school with them. Together with their hopes and dreams, they will carry our confidence in them and the possibilities of deeper connections with Jewish history and the Jewish people. I’m excited for them to become alumni (one day) and to maintain their connection with SW, but the relationships they have with us and our school were impressed upon us long ago. May they go from strength to strength as they travel from place to place, leaving positive meaningful imprints every step of the way.