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The Torah tells us that Yaakov went from Be'er Sheva towards Haran (Bereishit 28:10). If you look at the map, Haran is somewhere in modern day Turkey (if I'm correct), so the journey was upwards. When G-d tells Avraham to "go up" and go to Eretz Yisrael, this was also a spiritual journey, towards G-d, leaving the place "beyond the river" as the Be'er Mayim explains.

The word וירד‎ is not used in verse 28:10 but וַיֵּצֵ֥א. Is Yaakov's journey to Haran considered a "descent in spirituality" or a journey "upwards in spirituality"? The Kedushat Levi writes "the Torah wishes ‎the reader to know that he did not leave behind his spiritual ‎assets in the land of Canaan but that he took all his spiritual ‎equipment with him". Why did Yaakov needed to go to Haran?

Are there any commentaries/seforim explaining the deeper meaning of this pasuk?

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  • There are commentaries that suggest deeper ideas on the pasuk but not necessarily on the concept of a 'spiritual journey' - is it this idea precisely you are looking for further information on, or any deeper understanding?
    – Dov
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:16
  • @Dov: to be honest, both. I am indeed looking for deeper ideas, but also wanted to know if there are explanations that Yaakov's travel to Haran also meant something spiritually.
    – Shmuel
    Nov 14, 2021 at 11:55

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As far as the spiritual nature of this journey, the Midrash Shocher Tov / Midrash Tehillim 91:5 writes expressly:

א"ר חנינא בשם רבי אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן המלאכים טענו אותו שנאמר על כפים ישאונך

Rabbi Chaninah in the name of Rabbi Avahu in the name of Rabbi Yochanan said that the angels carried him as it says, “On [their] hands they will bear you…” (Tehillim 91:12)

When looking into this verse from Tehillim, it is worth noting the Zera Yaakov (see bottom paragraph on right side) that states that these angels are created by the mitzvos that one does with the palms of one's hands e.g. giving charity and performing chassodim (kindness) etc. and it is this that will raise a person above any dangers or pitfalls that lie in one's path.

With this in mind, we can perhaps understand that Yaakov was zoche (merited) to have Angelic assistance in his journeying from Be'er Sheva to Charan due to all the mitzvos and great deeds that he accomplished and therefore his journey was indeed infused with a sense of spiritual protection and guidance.

The Midrash Tanchuma builds on this point:

‎וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה לָּךְ לִשְׁמָרְךָ בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ (תהלים צא, יא). אָמַר רַבִּי מֵאִיר, עָשָׂה אָדָם מִצְוָה אַחַת, מוֹסְרִין לוֹ מַלְאָךְ אֶחָד. עָשָׂה שְׁתֵּי מִצְוֹת, מוֹסְרִין לוֹ שְׁנֵי מַלְאָכִים. עָשָׂה מִצְוֹת הַרְבֵּה, מוֹסְרִין לוֹ מַלְאָכִים הַרְבֵּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה לָּךְ לִשְׁמָרְךָ וְגוֹ'. וְלָמָּה, כְּדֵי לְשָׁמְרוֹ מִן הַמַּזִּיקִין, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: יִפֹּל מִצִּדְּךָ אֶלֶף וְגוֹ'. וּמַה הוּא יִפֹּל. מַשְׁלִימִין לוֹ כענין שנאמר: וממנשה נפלו על דוד (דברי הימים א' יב:כ)

And Jacob went out (Gen. 28:10). Scripture states elsewhere in reference to this verse: For He will give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (Ps. 91:11). R. Meir said: If a man performs one precept, one angel is assigned to watch over him; if he performs two commandments, two angels guard him, and if he performs many precepts, many angels are assigned to watch over him, as it is said: For He will give His angels charge over thee, to guard thee. Why are they given charge over him? In order to protect him from demons, as is said: A thousand may fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand (ibid., v. 7). What is meant by may fall? It means that they will surrender to him, as it is said in the verse: And of Manasseh, also, there fell away some to David (I Chron. 12:20). (Sefaria translation)

In addition to the Angelic accompaniment, his journey was miraculously cut short as the earth contracted under his feet.

The Gemara in Chulin 91b writes as follows:

אמר ר' יצחק שמש הבאה בעבורו זרחה בעבורו דכתיב (בראשית כח, י) ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה וכתיב ויפגע במקום כי מטא לחרן אמר אפשר עברתי על מקום שהתפללו אבותי ואני לא התפללתי כד יהיב דעתיה למיהדר קפצה ליה ארעא מיד ויפגע במקום

Rabbi Yitzḥak says: The verse means that the sun, which set early exclusively for him, also shone early exclusively for him in order to rectify the disparity created by the premature sunset. The Gemara explains when the sun set early for him: As it is written: “And Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran” (Genesis 28:10). And it is written thereafter: “And he encountered the place, and he slept there, because the sun had set” (Genesis 28:11). When Jacob arrived at Haran, he said: Is it possible that I passed a place where my fathers prayed and I did not pray there? When he set his mind to return, the land contracted for him. Immediately the verse states: “And he encountered the place,” indicating that he arrived there miraculously. (Sefaria translation and notation)

So Yaakov felt bad since he believed he had passed Har HaMoriah and hadn't stopped to daven therefore the earth contracted and he found himself there. Rashi there explains that this is implied through the word "פגע" which connotes the encounter of two parties moving towards one another.

Chizkuni relates:

וילך חרנה באותו יום הלך עד חרן ומקרית ארבע נסע כדאמרינן לאלתר ואמרו חכמים מקרית ארבע עד חרן מהלך שבעה עשר יום ובשתי עשרה שעות הלכן יעקב.

וילך חרנה, “he walked in the direction of Charan.” According to our sages in Sanhedrin 95 this means that he arrived in Charan still on the same day. He had travelled a number of days from Kiryat Arba. According to our sages it was 17 days’ walk from Kiryat Arvaba to Charan, a distance which Yaakov covered in 12 hours.

See also the Tur HaAruch for a similar point.

So needless to say, the trip also had a miraculous element imparted within it too.

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    There is lot to say about the miraculous element of the earth contracting under his feet. I am happy to add in if you want to know more about this too.
    – Dov
    Nov 14, 2021 at 13:00
  • Thank you @Dov for the great answer. And yes, that would be much appreciated!
    – Shmuel
    Nov 14, 2021 at 13:47

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