By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
"Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva and went toward Charan." (Bereisheet 28:10) What would be lacking had the verse simply said, "Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva toward Charan?" Clearly, if he left Be'er Sheva he went to some other place!
When a person leaves one place and goes to another, there can be two motives for going. Sometimes he wants to leave his current place, and sometimes his goal is the place towards which he is going.
"They traveled from the mountain of Hashem" (Bamidbar 10:33) Chazal comment: "Like a child who is running away from school." Where did they know this from? The pasuk emphasizes, "They traveled from the mountain of Hashem," and does not identify where their destination was. Chazal understood that it made no difference to them where they go - they just wanted to travel from the mountain of Hashem.
Yaakov was commanded by both his parents to go to Charan, but each one had his own reason. Rivka said to him: "So now, my son, heed my voice and arise; flee to my brother Lavan, to Charan ... until your brother's wrath subsides ... Why should I be bereaved of both of you on the same day?" (Bereisheet 27:43-45) Her main concern was that Esav intended to kill Yaakov, and therefore it was important for her that Yaakov should leave. On the other hand, his father Yitzchak said to him: "Do not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Betual your mother's father, and take a wife from there from the daughters of Lavan your mother's brother." (28:1-2) His main goal was that Yaakov should go to Padan and marry there.
Yaakov obeyed both of them; "Yaakov listened to his father and his mother." (28:7) This means, to his father who told him to go to Padan, and to his mother who told him to escape from Eretz Canaan. This is what the pasuk says: "Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva" – as Rivka commanded; "and went toward Charan" – as per Yitzchak's command.
This idea is true also in regards to the relationship of Jews to Eretz Yisrael. There are those who go to Israel in order to escape persecution in their dwelling place out of Israel. There are others who understand the special quality of Israel – that it is "the land of the living," and that there is the "Sanctuary of Hashem," as the Ramban writes – and leave exile in order to reach Israel.
This explains the verses in the beginning of Parshat Masei. "These are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael, who went forth from the land of Egypt ... Moshe wrote their departures according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their departures." (Bamidbar 33:1-2) Why is the concluding phrase repeated in reverse order? Some of Bnei Yisrael did not go out willingly, but were chased out forcibly, and had no interest in going to Eretz Yisrael. Others knew its value and looked forward to going to the Land and understood that Israel's redemption depended on this. Therefore, Moshe wrote their departures according to their journeys – their departure was for the purpose of the journey to Eretz Yisrael, and this was the true purpose of the Exodus. However, "These were their journeys according to their departures" – many traveled only to depart from Egypt, or were chased out from there.
This is statement of Yechezkel, "I will separate from among you those who rebel and those who transgress against me; I will take them out of their sojourning, but they will not come to the soil of Israel." (Yechezkel 20:38) Israel will become so low during the time of the exile, that even if their persecutors will chase them out and they will be forced to leave – going to Israel will not be primary in their eyes, but rather the escape from the lands of persecution. Therefore, Yechezkel concludes, "but they will not come to the soil of Israel."
In this same vein Rav Kook zt"l explains the verse, "Who are these, who fly like a cloud, like doves to the cote-windows?" (Yeshaya 60:8) The clouds are driven by the wind from place to place, without a specific destination, but the doves return to their home, to their cote-windows. So, too, there are Jews who are led against their will like clouds from place to place, and by chance reach Eretz Yisrael, and others know that coming to Israel is returning home.
Similarly, in Yirmiya, G-d comforts Rachel: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment ... and they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future ... and your children will return to their border." (31:15-16) There are Jews who reach Israel as a result of escaping the enemy's land, from a land of persecution, where they cannot live as Jews. However, there are those who understand that aliya to Eretz Yisrael is not escaping from another place, but rather the return of children to their original home, "your children will return to their border."