We Can Overcome All Of Life’s Trials!
At the beginning of our parsha, Jacob leaves his father’s home in Beersheba on his way to Haran (Genesis 28:10). Yet as we know, Jacob did not immediately travel to Laban’s home. He went to study in the Beit Midrash of Shem and Eber for 14 years, as the Sages have said (Megillah 17a). This is difficult to understand: Isaac sent him to Laban to take a wife, yet he postponed this for 14 years while on route? He should have gone there right away to obey his father’s command. Furthermore, why was Jacob sent to find a wife for himself, since Isaac could have sent an emissary to do that? After all, Isaac’s father Abraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for him!
Our parsha next describes Jacob’s dream, wherein he sees a ladder with “angels ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). What is the meaning of such a vision, with angels climbing up and down a ladder? Even if our Sages have said that Jacob was shown the future kingdoms that would rise and fall on earth, what was being conveyed to him by such a revelation?
Most remarkable of all is the fact that while Jacob was on route to Laban’s home, he made a vow and said: “If G-d will be with me…and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear” (v.20). Now imagine a person fleeing from his brother because he wants to kill him. What would such a person ask of Hashem? It would obviously be to be saved from his brother, from the hand of the wicked! Yet what did Jacob ask for? Bread and clothing! Is that something people ask for when their lives are at stake? Rather, he should have asked to be saved from Esau’s sword! If we look carefully at what is happening in this passage, however, we see that Jacob is beginning a special period in his life here. We know that Abraham experienced trials, as did Isaac, but for Jacob we see none; that is, none until this parsha. It is now that his problems start, for previously he had remained studying Torah. All the same, a person cannot go through life without confronting problems, which is why Isaac sent Jacob out into the vast world – him and not an emissary. Where did he send him? To Haran, a place of Hashem’s wrath (haron), where he would stand alone against a multitude. This was done in order for him to emerge victorious from all the trials that he would encounter there. It was to make him grow in the service of Hashem.
When Jacob heard this, he knew that he had to suitably prepare himself for the coming trials. How can a person succeed? Through the study of Torah, as our Sages have said: “Torah protects permanently…it protects and rescues” (Sotah 21a). This is why Jacob did not immediately go to Laban, but first went to study with Shem and Eber for 14 years. He did this in order to acquire the Torah, which would protect and support him in all hardships. After studying for 14 years in the tents of Torah, he would be able to depart for his long journey to the home of Laban, and there he would courageously overcome all the trials that presented themselves to him. Before reaching his destination, however, other things happened to him.
As soon as he set out on his journey, Jacob encountered his first trial. The Holy One, blessed be He, caused the sun to set at an unusual time, obligating him to stop while on route.