The opening Posuk of the parsha (28:10) that describes Yakov’s departure from Be’er Sheva seems to use too many words. Why does it need to specify that he was leaving from Be’er Sheva? We know where he was, all the Posuk needed to say was ‘Yakov went to Charan’.
Rashi observes this redundancy and explains as follows. The emphasis on Yakov not only going to Charan but leaving Be’er Sheva teaches us that when a Tzaddik departs from a city, it leaves an impression on that city. The Tzaddik who exemplifies spiritual perfection, makes an impact on all those around him and when he leaves, the loss is felt by everyone who remains. As beautiful as this idea is, the commentaries are bothered by a fundamental question. Yakov is the third of the forefathers. Seemingly, as great as Yakov was, his father Yitzchak and grandfather Avraham had reached
equally lofty, if not greater, levels of righteousness. If so, why did the Torah wait until this point to teach us that the departure of a Tzaddik from a city leaves an impression, why was this lesson not taught earlier, in the accounts of the lives of Avraham or Yitzchak?
The Kli Yakar offers two approaches. Whenever Avraham or Yitzchak left a particular place, they were leaving behind hardly any other spiritually receptive people. In their days there were no others who had the same commitment as they did. This being the case, it would be obvious that their leaving a city would make an impression on those remaining. In contrast, when Yakov left Be’er Sheva, he was not leaving behind the same sort of spiritually barren population. After all, his parents Yitzchak and Rivka were still present in Be’er Sheva at that time. If so, we would have thought that one would not be able to learn the aforementioned principle from this episode. Therefore, the Torah waited until here, in order to convey the idea that even in circumstances such as these (i.e. where they may be other Tzaddikim remaining in the city), the departure of a Tzaddik leaves an impression on those remaining.
The Kli Yakar’s second approach is the exact opposite of the first. Specifically for the reason that the people around Avraham and Yitzchak were not tuned in to spiritual matters (and in fact were quite the opposite), meant that when Avraham and Yitzchak departed from a city, it did not leave an impression on the people there. In actual fact, these people were quite happy to see the back of them. With Yakov’s departure from Be’er Sheva, however, an impression was left specifically because the people who remained were committed and loyal to spiritual ideals, and it was they who were most sensitive to the loss of someone as righteous as Yakov. This provides an eye-opening insight. Our ability to learn from and be guided by the leaders of our communities depends on our enthusiasm, commitment and consistency to the principles which they represent.