Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Back to Yeshiva
Yaakov is about to embark on a journey during which he will face two great challenges. As his first challenge, Yaakov must sustain himself spiritually in an environment alien to the values he absorbed in the his parents' home. Somehow, a buffer must be created to protect him from being influenced by his deceitful uncle and future father-in-law, Lavan. Yaakov's second challenge, as the heir to the legacy of Avraham, is to build a family which can serve as the foundation of the Jewish nation-to-be. The future of the Jewish People depends on the actions of Yaakov in this regard. What can Yaakov do to guard himself from the negative influences around him and how can he prepare himself to found a nation?
Chazal teach us that Yaakov did not go immediately to the house of Lavan when fleeing from Esav, rather he first immersed himself in learning Torah in the Yeshiva of Ever. Given that Yaakov was already sixty-three years old and had already spent his youth learning Torah in the Yeshivas of Shem and Ever, why was it necessary to return to the yeshiva now?
It was precisely the two aforementioned challenges facing Yaakov that compelled him to return to the study of Torah. Torah study is the only line of defense against spiritually hostile forces and the protection that guarantees that a person's value system remains pure. The Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Biah 22:21), after elaborating upon all the necessary safeguards against inappropriate activity, concludes that the greatest impediment to sin is whole-hearted involvement in Torah study. For Yaakov to survive the house and society of Lavan, an extra dose of Torah study was necessary.
Yaakov was about to begin a new chapter in his life. Standing on the threshold of marriage and building a family, Yaakov is about to begin to transmit Torah to the next generation. It is this transmission from parent to child that creates the essence of the Jewish nation. Yaakov no longer studied Torah only as an individual, but also as one with a responsibility to transmit the Torah to the next generation. Yaakov returns to the Yeshiva of his youth to reapply himself to the talmud Torah that will enable him to properly build his family and nation.
Yaakov's return to Torah serves as a model for all subsequent generations. We are often faced with challenges to our spiritual goals. How do we survive when the values we hold dear are under attack? We return to our sources of Torah, our yeshivas and batei medrash, to strengthen ourselves. Our learning before and after work can be the buffer that preserves our Torah, even if we are exposed to influences antithetical to the Torah value system during the day. We look to Yaakov as a role model for how to create a family. Talmud Torah is indispensable in creating an environment in which our children can spiritually flourish. Therefore we, as parents, have the responsibility to rededicate ourselves to talmud Torah to enable us to share our legacy with our children. Just as Yaakov's fourteen years of renewed Torah study enabled him to respond to the challenges that faced him, our return to talmud Torah will enable us to rise to our own challenges.