Yaakov departs the land of Canaan, headed toward Charan to Uncle Lavan’s house, hopefully to marry, and to avoid the wrath of his brother Esav. When Avraham received the divine mandate to leave his country, his birthplace, and his father’s home, it obviously had nothing to do with disassociating himself completely from the members of his larger family because his son and grandson are obtaining their wives from that original household. Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah, all our patriarchs and matriarchs, emanate from that country, birthplace, and patriarchal establishment. Perhaps what Hashem was telling Avraham is that the people are not treif but their morals, life values, and lifestyle have to be abandoned. The quest for monotheism is difficult enough in the pagan world. Avraham was establishing a new family that would swim against the current of idolatry. It would forge a new path of morality. This was the ultimate mandate and would be costly. It was partially successful at the outset because Avraham not only had Yitzchak, but he had Yishmael. Yitzchak not only had Yaakov, but he had Esav. The ability to abandon one’s roots, even on the scale that was required of the patriarchal family, would take several generations to complete before the road to a Jewish nation evolves.
Life is very difficult. Isn’t it a fact that a person may have food but, because his family is without clothing, he has to sell the food to buy clothing? Similarly, under some conditions a person sells his clothing to obtain money to purchase food. These are the thoughts Yaakov had in mind when he made the prayer, “Dear Lord, please promise to give me bread that I shall eat and clothing that I shall wear. I don’t want to have to sell or pawn either to buy food for my family or to buy clothing.”
One day the holy Rabbi Chaim of Sanz asked one of his disciples who was sitting at his table whether the waiter did not forget to give him his share of food. “Rabbi,” replied the disciple very earnestly, “not for the purpose of food did I come here, but for the soul.” The rabbi smilingly replied, “You did not come to this world to eat, but if you try to withhold the food and drink that a person needs, the soul will fly away very soon.”
Rabbi David Grossman