Parshat Vayetzei: And Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva and went towards Haran
The Torah tells us that before Yaakov Avinu left to go and live in Haran, he lived in Beer Sheva, the very first city that the Patriarchs sanctified. And at this time that Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva, Yitzhak and Rivka were still both alive.
Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva, to the house of Lavan, and the holy Zohar says about this that Lavan’s house was the most tamei (spiritually impure) house in the whole world, inasmuch as it was the world’s centre for kishuf, (black magic, sorcery). A whole dynasty of sorcerers came out of that house – Betuel, the father of Lavan; and after him Lavan; and then Lavan’s son was Beor, and his son was Bilaam.
The holy Zohar also explains that they used to do all sorts of different aveirot (transgressions) in order to tap into the black magic powers from the two angels that are to be found in the mountains of darkness.
Haran was the most spiritually-impure place in the world
Yaakov Avinu was 77 years old when he departed from a place that was sanctified with the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, and where his whole being was devoted to holiness and learning Torah, to go to the most spiritually-impure place in the whole world. The question is: What is the deeper reason why Yaakov Avinu needed to leave the holiest place in the world, to go to the most spiritually-impure place in the world?
De facto, we see in this parsha that Yaakov Avinu went to do something of the highest magnitude in Haran, namely to father the 12 tribes, who all of Am Yisrael subsequently descended from. In Haran he met his wives, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah and Bilhah, and 11 of the tribes were born there, except for Binyamin who was conceived in Haran [but born in Israel].
But even so, why did Yaakov have to go to Haran in order to meet his wives? After all, Hashem could have easily arranged things so that his wives would have had to come to him, in Eretz Yisrael. So what’s the root of the matter, that Yaakov had to dafka go down to Haran?
The deepest secrets of tikkun haolam
We have to know that this whole process of Yaakov going down to the most tamei place in the world, i.e. Haran, and dafka fathering Am Yisrael there, is connected to the deepest secrets of tikkun haolam, or the rectification of the world.
Let’s take a deeper look at this. The first story in ‘Rebbe Nachman’s Tales’ (Sipurey HaMaasiot) is the story of The Lost Princess. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt’l, tells us there that was once a king who had six sons, and one daughter, and that he doted on the daughter the most. One day, without any prior warning, the king got upset with his daughter, and told her to her face: “May the ‘not good’ take you!”
The Princess went to her room – and then she wasn’t seen again, and the king was extremely upset. The vice-roy saw that the king was in a very sorry state, and requested that he be given a servant, a horse and some time, and he went off to go and find her.
It took the vice-roy a great number of years until he managed to find the place of the ‘not good’, and there, in a palace, he met the Princess, who said to him: ‘You for sure have no idea what I’m doing here!’ – because that was the place of the ‘not good’, etc.
Why did the King get angry with the princess?
We know that all of Rebbe Nachman’s stories contain parables and hints about extremely lofty spiritual matters, so much so that Rav Natan was told by Rabbenu that an infinite number of worlds hang on every single word of the Sipurey Maasiot. So when we learn Rebbe Nachman’s stories, we have to do it with a great deal of precision, in the same sort of way that we learn Gemara together with the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosefot.
If we look closely at the story, what’s the reason why the king suddenly became angry with the Princess, who up until that point he’d doted the most on? Rebbe Nachman hid one of the secrets of the creation of the world here. The king in the story alludes to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the King of Kings, and the Lost Princess alludes to a great many things, but one of them is the galut, or exile, of the Shechinah (Divine Presence).
That the King said: ‘May the ‘not good’ take you!’ alludes to the time before the creation of the world. We see that even before Hashem created the world, He sent the Shechina into galut (exile). After this, from the time of Adam’s sin, this matter became even stronger. From then, until the coming of Moshiach Tzidkanu, the whole rectification of the world revolves around returning the Princess to the King.
Namely, our main work is to rescue the Shechina from her exile, and to return her to her rightful place in the palace of the King.
Adapted and translated from Al Parshat Drachim, by Rav Ofer Erez