Be PreparedNovember 4, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran.”—Genesis 28:10
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
There is a story about a man who approached his rabbi and asked, “I only have a half hour every day to dedicate to study. Should I study Torah or mussar (the Jewish equivalent of self-development)?” The rabbi answered, “Study mussar. Then you will realize that you have more than a half hour a day to study!”
Indeed, if we fully understood the importance of Bible study, we would find a way to make the time for meaningful study every day.
This week’s Torah reading opens by telling us that Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran, where he would seek out a wife in his uncle’s home. However, at the conclusion of last week’s Torah reading, we already learned that Jacob had left home: “Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban . . .” (Genesis 28:5). Why the repetition?
The Sages explain that the first time Jacob left, he didn’t go straight to Laban’s home. Instead, he went to study at the Academy of Shem and Eber, a seminary set up by Noah’s son and grandson for the study of monotheism and ethics. The Sages teach that Jacob felt unprepared to face the tasks of going into exile, living in the home of the duplicitous Laban, and finding the right spouse.
In order to prepare himself spiritually for the challenges he would face, Jacob turned to studying God’s Word as it was known at the time through oral traditions. Jacob studied for over a decade and then set out for Harran in earnest. When the verses tell us in this week’s reading that Jacob left Beersheba, that is when he really left the town and set out on his perilous journey.
The Sages encourage us to learn from Jacob’s example. God’s Word is not just something nice to read once in a while. Bible study is not merely an academic pursuit. The Torah is our guidebook, a tool for coping with the struggles of daily life. In Psalm 19 we read that the Bible refreshes the soul and makes simple minds wise (v.7), that it gives joy to the heart and light to the eyes (v.8). By studying our Bibles, we are far better equipped to deal with the many challenges in our lives.
Try designating a significant amount of time to studying your Bible daily and you will be fully prepared for the demands of daily life. Arm yourself with God’s Word; equip your soul with Scriptures. As it says, “She [the Bible] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:18).