As Sefer Bereishis contains only three mitzvos, it is easy to assume that the stories found throughout these parshiyos are just that, entertaining children’s stories. However, as we have learned, Chazal teach us that all these stories have a purpose, to show us how to act and serve Hashem in the best way possible. And who better to learn from than Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov! This week’s Dvar Torah is a perfect example of this.
At the beginning of Perek 26, a famine has spread throughout Eretz Yisrael and Yitzchak prepares to move out to find food. Hashem appears to him and tells him, “אַל-תֵּרֵד מִצְרָיְמָה שְׁכֹן בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְאֶהְיֶה עִמְּךָ וַאֲבָרְכֶךָ” “…Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in the land that I will tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and I will bless you…” (Bereishis 26:2-3). These pesukim seem quite strange. First Hashem tells Yitzchak not go to Egypt and to await further instructions of where to go. It sounds as if it will be a while before these instructions are given, but then he immediately tells him to stay right where he is! What is the meaning of this?
The Ramban explains that it’s not that the first pasuk is telling Yitzchak to wait for instructions and the second pasuk is giving them, rather the context of the pasuk is different. In reality, Yitzchak is not fleeing his home because of the famine, this pasuk is speaking regardless. Yitzchak is now beginning to live as a nomad like his father, Avraham. This is for two reasons, first, that the Avos were not allowed to act as if they owned Eretz Yisrael while the Canaani were still ruling there, and secondly, Hashem did not want the Avos to have any permanent dwelling in this world. He wanted that they should live permanently only in the World to Come. (We will hopefully to continue discuss these reasons more in later Parshiyos.) Before he left, Hashem warns him not to go down to Mitzrayim, and to only live in places where he will tell him to live in. He then tells him that no matter where he travels to, he should always stay in Eretz Yisrael, “גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת” “Live in this land”. He should never leave to go to a different country.
The Kli Yakar explains that there are two points in these pesukim which we must recognize. First, it is impossible to receive Nevuah (Prophecy) outside Eretz Yisrael, so in order for Hashem to continue to be able to talk to Yitzchak, Yitzchak had to stay in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the pasuk says, “שְׁכֹן בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ”, which he translates this to mean, “Live in the land, where I will speak to you”! Afterwards, he tells him, “גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת”; there is a fundamental difference between the words “גּוּר” and “שְׁכֹן”. “גּוּר" denotes a much more temporary residence than “שְׁכֹן”. Hashem is telling Yitzchak that while he should make Eretz Yisrael his permanent home in the spiritual sense (שְׁכֹן), it should still remain his temporary home in the physical sense (גּוּר).
It is so easy for us in Galus to become comfortable with our surroundings and forget what our real purpose in this world is. Chazal tell us that this world is nothing but the hallway to the house which is Olam Habah. Of course it is easier to reach these tremendous heights in a place with so much Kedushah, but even if we are in Eretz Yisrael, the only place where there can be a complete revelation of the Shechinah, we still cannot look at it as our final stop. This world is but a step towards the real reward, the real resting place, of Olam Habah. The Avos could reach these high levels in this world, and still they realized the real purpose of it all. We must follow in their footsteps and work towards this final goal.
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