I remember the moments after my first child was born. As I cuddled my daughter in my arms, so close to me, I was overcome with parental protectiveness. I remember thinking that I would always hold her so close, secure in the warmth of my embrace, safeguarded from the trials of life. I would forever shield her innocence and spare her from the coldness and negativity of this world.
I had the same thought with the subsequent birth of each of my children. Fierce, maternal emotions that I never knew I had were born as I held the innocent, helpless new life.
But, of course, try as we do, and as much as we would like, these thoughts are wishful thinking. Our children grow up and encounter the challenges of this world. As painful as it sometimes is to let them go, only in confronting the “real world” do they develop their own individuality and grow to become their greatest selves.
This week’s parshah begins with the word Vayeitzei, “he went out,” and embodies the message of this portion.
Jacob went out from Be’er Sheva, and he went to Charan (Genesis 28:10).
In order for Jacob to become the patriarch of the Jewish people, he had to “go out,” to leave the haven of an insular life, as well as the material and spiritual comforts of his home, and face the challenges of a hostile world.
Jacob leaves the spiritual idyll of Be’er Sheva in the Holy land to travel to Charan. Be’er Sheva literally means the “well of seven” and metaphorically refers to the seven Divine attributes of the soul. Charan literally means “wrath,” and was a place of lies, deception, struggle and manipulation. In the materialistic, contentious land of Charan, Jacob marries and fathers the tribes of Israel.
Jacob’s journey reflects the journey of all of our lives.
A newborn baby’s soul cries bitterly as it descends from its cozy, spiritual home to face a harsh, combative world, antagonistic of all things that the soul knew, loved and was comforted by. Yet, in facing the many challenges and in staying strong to its values, the soul finds its mission and raison d’etre.
“To Charan” is indicated by the Hebrew letter hey suffixed to the word Charan. Hey is the second letter of the Tetragrammaton (the name of G‑d) through which G‑d created our physical world (Menachot 29b).
No matter in which city or country we currently live, we are all citizens of Charan. Each day, we face the challenges of our Charan life. And, as much as we want to protect ourselves and our children from the ravages of our world, it is precisely here that each of us fulfills the purpose for which our world was created.
To help make our world a better place—a home and haven for G‑d.