This week’s Sedra is Vayeitzei and takes place after Yaacov, now in possession of the birthright, is told by his mother to leave home. She tells him to go to the house of her brother Lavan, in Charan, to escape Esav. There is a time lapse of fourteen years between this moment and the time of his arrival in Charan. Rashi1 explains that those fourteen years were spent in the Yeshivah of Shem and Aver, learning Torah. (Shem everybody will remember was one of the three sons of Noach).

Torah is endlessly deep. As we will constantly see throughout the book, the stories in the Torah, although of course actual history, are a blueprint for Am Yisrael forever.2 They continue to be replayed at various spiritual levels by all of us in every generation.

Yaacov was a Neshamah Kelalis (a general soul) for Am Yisrael.3 His actions and movements are accordingly critically important to all Jews, who are the carriers of his spiritual D.N.A.

To continue the story, Yaacov after leaving the Yeshivah of Shem and Aver arrived at Charan, the house of his mother’s brother, Lavan. There he met and loved Rachel, the younger of his uncle’s two daughters. He negotiated with Lavan that he would work for him for seven years in return for the opportunity to marry her. The seven years passed like a few days, but Lavan then swindled him by substituting his elder daughter for Rachel. Dismayed, Yaacov renegotiated a second seven year period of labor in return for Rachel. Twenty years later Yaacov left Charan with his two wives, two handmaids, his children, animal and other wealth, making his way back to Eretz Yisrael.

A general soul has the capacity to impart good and the opposite to its offspring.4 This may not seem fair, but it is a fact of life. (Of course ultimately everything is fair though often not apparent to eyes of flesh and blood).5 Adam was a Neshamah Kelalis for the whole of mankind and everybody knows that Chava gave him the fruit to eat. Because he ate it, mankind became mortal. Is this fair? Why should we face mortality because Adam could not resist the fruit for a few hours? We will see in Week 15 that all he had to do was to refrain from the fruit until Shabbos — a few hours! His failure affected mankind forever.

This aspect of the influence of a Neshamah Kelalis can be understood from a practical example. A pregnant drug addict passes her addiction to the unborn fetus. Upon birth, the baby suffers withdrawal symptoms. Can this be the child’s fault? Conversely, the mother who is scrupulous about what she ingests will be more likely to have a healthy baby. Is this the child’s merit? This chapter is not the place to consider this question — we do so elsewhere.6 Meanwhile suffice it to report, everything is fair and HaShem structures each person’s environment with His, not our, Wisdom.

Yaacov was a Neshamah Kelalis for Am Yisrael , and the proof that his neshamah was perfected, lies in his children. “His bed was complete” in the sense that his twelve sons were all tzaddikim. Although the two Avos preceding him, Avraham and Yitzchok, were two of the greatest tzaddikim who ever lived, the fact was that they each produced the imperfections of Yishmael and Esav. We learn that this was because they represented the extremities of Chesed and Gevurah respectively.7 Yaacov was perfect; a sublime mixture of Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (strictness) known as Tiferes (perfect beauty). So this Neshamah Kelalis left his parent’s house, spent fourteen years in the Yeshivah of Shem and Aver, descended to Charan and then left there together with his family and possessions.

Here is an astonishing truth. So it is with all of us! As with Yaacov, the Neshamah Kelalis , so it is with all the particular souls which devolve from him.8 We all go through the process of leaving Eretz Yisrael and descending to Charan to accomplish certain things there. We leave Eretz Yisrael as a nation and wander the globe in exile. Additionally, every Jew in particular has a period of his day in which he is in his own Eretz Yisrael, his own spiritual and peaceful time; he also has a period of the day in which he leaves that spiritual plane for the activities of everyday life. “Charan” in Hebrew connotes heat, anger and turbulence.9 Yaacov left Eretz Yisrael and the Yeshivah of Shem and Aver, a level of peace, where he learned Torah and elevated his soul. From there he descended to Charan, the heat, anger and turbulence of daily life. In our collective Charan, we are confronted by businessmen with knives in their teeth; Lavan is liar, cheat and thief. In Charan, Yaacov’s task was to elevate the sparks of kedushah , existing there in the heat anger and turbulence of physicality. So is it with us. It is our task, and more, our sacred duty and ultimately, our greatness.

It is only by going into the Charan’s of our daily existence that we can bring G‑dliness into it. Completing that job is every Jew’s purpose of existence. Then we will leave Charan and return to our Eretz Yisrael with our family and fortunes complete and intact.

So, here is our blueprint. This week one can tune into each person’s personal day’s menu. A Jew gets up from bed, experiencing his Eretz Yisrael by spending the first fourteen units of his day deep in prayer to G‑d and learning some of His Torah. When he then descends to Charan he is thus equipped to look after his sheep, (his business). He does this with his body; he earns his income but, his head and heart are still dedicated to G‑d and His Torah. Then and only then, can he elevate all the sparks in Charan.

Finally, having done so, he leaves, having a complete bed,10 supervising his wife, children and grandchildren living a life of fulfillment and purpose in the world, bringing goodness and satisfaction to other people. Together they all then reenter their Eretz Yisrael.