On the statement that Jacob left Beer Sheva in this week's Torah portion, Vayetze, (Gen. 28:10) Rashi explains that the departure of a righteous person from a place makes an ostensibly negative impact there. With the departure of the righteous person, "light turns (away), glory turns (away)…". From personal experience each of us knows that some places are more special than others. Rebbe Michil of Zlotshov explains why from a Torah perspective.

G‑d creates a world where good and bad appear balanced….

On examining the above verse and its commentary, and especially considering that the Torah is G‑d's will and wisdom, why would the Torah present something negative about Jacob leaving? Just say that Jacob arrived somewhere. Alternatively, Jews have a strong tradition that when a righteous person leaves a place, an eternal positive impression remains behind. Even if we are not on a high enough level to experience it, it is possible to sense it if we try. This is why, for instance, one sits "shiva" (the 7 day ritual of mourning) in the home of the departed person, since that person's energy is more present there and therefore consoles us.

If so, then how can we understand the verse and Rashi's commentary? Let us try to understand Rashi in a different way - that when a righteous person leaves a place he leaves a positive impression! The "light turns [to the place], the glory turns [to the place]!" A place where a righteous person lived is always filled with positive energy! We can both sense this, as well as use it to help us grow.

We can overcome these obstacles and instill new positive energy wherever we go….

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true; G‑d creates a world where good and bad appear balanced. (Ecclesiastes 7:14) Just as the presence of a righteous person in a place causes that place to be forever filled with light, so a place where an evil person was present is forever filled with darkness and impurity. We can sense that it is much harder to express ourselves spiritually in a place that is (or was) filled with evil! It could well be that bad thoughts and confusion are not a product of our own minds but rather the influence of negative surrounding! There is a strong hint to this in the teaching "Two that sit together and do not have Torah between them, this is a place of evil doers, as the verse says, 'Don't sit in a place of evil doers'". (Psalms 1:1, Avot 3:2) What does it mean, "…there is no Torah between them"? Let it say, "who do not speak Torah." Further, what proof does the verse from Ecclesiastes bring? Rather, let us understand it as saying: When two people that are having trouble saying Torah in a location that does not bring any positive spiritual energy between them, this is proof that that place was once a setting for evil doers. This is as the verse confirms, "Don't sit in a place of evil doers!"

If this is unconditionally true, however, we should all avoid going to certain places. Nevertheless, the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent his emissaries all over the world, even to many places overridden with "evil" behavior. Certainly with the power of a truly righteous person supporting us, we can overcome any problems. Also, we understand that difficulties are not always from within us, but rather a reflection of the place. If we redouble our efforts, we can overcome these obstacles and instill new positive energy wherever we go. Without question, this is the way to bring Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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