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   by Jacob Solomon

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After 22 turbulent years of absence from his father's household:

Jacob settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan (37:1).

Based on the Midrash, Rashi comments that Jacob wanted to spend those later years of his life in peace and quiet, but the deeply disturbing events concerning Joseph and his brothers were not going to let that happen. The eternal reward of the World to Come should be quite enough for the righteous, without having to include comforts of this world.

The Kli Yakar suggests that part of the reason that Jacob settled rather than just briefly sojourned was to be close enough to his father Isaac to be able to honor him after the years of separation. However, there was subtle difference between the mindset of Isaac and the mindset of Jacob. Isaac was a sojourner, based on megurei, from the word ger, meaning a stranger. Jacob was a settler, based on vayeishev, meaning that he made it his home. A stranger understands that he may be on the move at any time; a settler acquires a sense of being a more permanent resident. The settler has an address; the stranger perceives himself as having no fixed abode.

Indeed, four crucial spiritual developments in the journey of Am Yisrael have happened in times of residential instability: the Avot's progress within and beyond Eretz Israel, the Giving of the Torah, the Return under Ezra and Nehemiah, and post-Second Temple continuation of Jewish learning and authority at Yavneh. Common to all of them is the point made by Jonathan Sacks (Torah Tidbits #1209, p.19):

"…to be a Jew is… to live in the tension between heaven and earth, creation and revelation, the world that is and the world that we are called upon to make… Jews don't stand still except when standing before G-d. The universe… is in constant motion, and so is the Jewish soul".

In short, living with a suitable degree of uncertainty is spiritually healthy and proactive.

The Torah makes it clear that that journey continues even when living in Eretz Israel: the terms of living there expressed as "for you are sojourners and residents with me (Lev. 25:23), conditional on "beware lest you forget G-d" (Deut. 8:19), and that "the land shall not spew you out… as it vomited the nation that was there before you" (Lev. 18:28).

Indeed, the Jewish people's millennia of progress within impermanent and unpredictable environments has been giving them the capacity to adapt to the rapidly changing and advancing realities of today's world, wherever they are. It is our prayer that our people's positive and proactive involvement in today's world should lead to the destination of our journey: the geula sheleima bimheira beyameinu

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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