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He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took form the stones of the place and put them around his head and lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)
In this week’s parsha we learn how Yaakov traveled from Be’er Sheva to Charan. Rashi explains that after Yaakov arrived at Charan he was concerned that he passed over Har Hamoriah, the place where the Beis Hamikdash will be built and did not pray there as his father and grandfather did. Immediately, he set out to return to Har Hamoriah. At that point, Hashem performed a miracle and brought Har Hamoriah to Yaakov thereby obviating the journey.
The commentators ask an obvious question. Why did Yaakov originally not plan to pray at Har Hamoriah, the place where his forefathers prayed? What changed so that he regretted not visiting Har Hamoriah in the first place?
In the Sefer Shemen Hatov (Vol. 4) Rav Bernard Weinberger presents two answers to this question. The Sefas Emes explains that Yaakov did not want to approach the place of the Beis Hamikdash without proper preparation. His main destination was Charan. He considered it disrespectful to stop off at Har Hamoria on the way to Charan. It would have had the appearance that it was not worthy of a trip in its own right. It was only after he arrived at his planned destination that he decided to make a special trip to Har Hamoriah.
HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Yaakov believed that Har Hamoria had become defiled due to idolatry and was thus no longer a proper place to pray to Hashem. After Yaakov arrived in Charan and reflected upon this, Hashem performed a miracle by uprooting the mountain from its defiled surroundings and brought it to Yaakov so that he could go and pray on the mountain.
Perhaps we can suggest another answer. Yaakov was raised in the illustrious homes of Yitzchak and Avraham and had just finished studying for fourteen years at the academy of Shem and Evar. After developing for so many years under their guidance, perhaps he now felt that he had a sufficient foundation upon which to go out into the world and make a name or himself. As he left for Charan he did not feel that it was necessary to stop and pray at Har Hamoria, the place where his father and grandfather had prayed. Har Hamoria was their legacy not his. His spiritual foundation was secure and he was to go forward on his own. However, upon reaching his destination he realized the necessity of reinforcing the spiritual foundation of his father and grandfather. Thus, he returned to his the places where his forefathers prayed.
Chazal teach us that what happened to our forefathers is a sign for us. This sequence of events is indeed a natural process in the development of an individual, and on a larger scale, a new generation. Sometimes we think that we could accomplish more than our parents, grandparents and predecessors or at least do things better and more efficiently. However we soon realize that we were foolish to think that we can succeed without building on their legacy and it is in their merit that we are blessed in our endeavors.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003