Parshat Vayeitzei begins: "And Jacob went out of Be'er Sheba, and he went to Charan."1

Keying on the fact that be’er sheba can mean “well of oath” or “well of seven,” the Midrash2 tells us he left in order that Abimelech (king of the Philistines) wouldn't be able to ask him to take the same oath his grandfather and father took, and cause his children's joy to wait seven generations.

What does this mean?

Abraham and Isaac made peace agreements with Abimelech, both in the form of an oath. The Midrash3 tells us that the consequence of those oaths was that the Jewish people's entry into the land of Israel was pushed off for seven generations. Abraham's oath pushed it off until the generation of Moses, and Isaac's oath added another generation, until Joshua, who conquered the land, and was the seventh generation from Isaac.4

It seems that Abraham and Isaac weren't afraid to take an oath and make a peace agreement with Abimelech, even though it would push off the entry into the land. Why was Jacob the only one afraid to take an oath of peace with Abimelech?

In order to understand this, we need to take a look at the difference between the style of service to G‑d of Abraham and Isaac as opposed to that of Jacob.

Our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, served G‑d on the highest of levels. They were like a chariot5 to G‑d. Just as a chariot has no will of its own, going only where its driver wants it to go, so it was with our forefathers. They were so in sync with G‑d that their will was totally His. They did His will automatically. But there were differences in the way they affected the world around them.

The approach of Abraham and Isaac toward evil was to avoid it, or to arrange that it wouldn't bother them, so that they could serve G‑d in peace. That is why they made a treaty with Abimelech.

When you make a peace agreement with another, it doesn't change who they are or what they stand for. It causes a temporary halt to the negative actions against each other. But Abimelech remained the same immoral Philistine that he always was. Because of this style of service, Abraham and Isaac didn't change the nations among whom they lived. The Canaanites remained the same immoral Canaanites, and the Hittites remained the same immoral Hittites. True, they didn't bother Abraham and Isaac, and they even respected them, but they weren't changed. Because of this style of service, from Abraham came Ishmael, and Isaac fathered Esau. They didn't influence their children and make them into moral G‑dly people, because their way was to suppress evil, not transforming it.

Jacob, on the other hand, worked on transforming the bad around him into good. He didn't make peace with it. Rather, he refined it until it was transformed completely to positive. That is why he couldn't make peace with Abimelech, because that would ensure that Abimelech wouldn't change. And that is why all of his children followed in his footsteps, because he would have that effect and influence on them, transforming everything into good.

This is why Jacob was the one to leave the Holy Land to go to Charan, the lowest of places. As Rashi6 tells us, that it was charon af shel Makom ba’olam, “the place in the world that angered G‑d." He wanted to refine it, which he accomplished over a 20-year span that he was there, living under Laban.

So, why weren't Abraham and Isaac wary of making peace with Abimelech, if it was going to push off the entry into the land of Israel by seven generations?

It wasn't that the oath itself pushed off the entry into the land. Rather, as long as the bad remained, the world was not ready for the entry to happen. Since their mode of service didn't transform the bad into good anyway, it didn't matter if they took the oath or not. The entry would still be pushed off until the evil would be transformed.

It is Jacob's mode of service that made us who we are. We are called by his name, the Children of Israel (Jacob's other name was Israel), because this service is what we are meant to emulate. Our purpose is to make this lowly world into a dwelling place for G‑d. We do this by refining ourselves and the world around us, through Torah and mitzvot, and by using everything in our life in the service of G‑d.

G‑d has put us in the darkest place and the darkest time, the last moments of the exile. This is the ultimate Charan, the lowest of the low, and we have the power to transform it. When the lowest is transformed into good, into a dwelling for G‑d, our work will be complete, and Moshiach will come.7

May our efforts in refining the world through Torah and mitzvot be fruitful, and put an end to the suffering and pain of this dark and bitter exile once and for all. The time has come.

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated by Mendy and Ita Klein in honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all.