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    Comings & goings – Vayyetzei

    Jacob & his family leave Haran, by Charles Foster, 1897

    Jacob & his family leave Haran, by Charles Foster, 1897

    The portion begins with the phrase, “And Jacob went out from Beer Sheva and went to Haran” (Gen. 28:11).

    According to Rashi, it would not have been enough to tell us where he went to, Haran, without also informing us where he came from, Beer Sheva. So both his going out and his coming in needed to be specified.

    This tells us that when a good person leaves a place it is not only worthy of note: it also proves that on your departure, the place you have left is thereby diminished.

    It’s a phenomenon that has characterised all the many centuries of Jewish migration.

    Looking only at the last two centuries when millions of Jews moved from one country to another, we can trace not only the contribution they made to their new homes but also the negative impact their leaving made on the places they came from.

    Continental Europe is the prime modern example. The culture of the whole of Europe lost its lustre when it lost its Jews.

    It’s all very well for European nations to think they can manage without their Jews, but did (and do) they ever think of how much their Jewish communities did for them and how much they lack without the Jews of the past?

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