Leave Before You Can Travel Forward

I was profoundly disturbed when a member of my congregation told me that he didn’t care that his father had just passed away. They had been estranged for years, he explained, yet I still felt sullied by listening to his utter lack of affection or even respect for his late father. My admonishment to him to observe the traditional mourning routine fell on deaf ears.

During the following six years I witnessed his life deteriorate. He became an angry man. His marriage suffered, his own children grew distant, and his psychiatry practice shrank. I was trained by my late father, one of whose lessons was never to offer unsolicited advice, so though I knew what might be contributing to his problem, I remained silent.

Finally, in despair, my unhappy congregant scheduled a consultation with me. Once he had sat down and I determined that he now finally had an open mind, I picked up a Bible and turned to Genesis 28:5.

And Isaac sent away Jacob who went to Padan Aram, to Laban…..(Genesis 28:5)

So, Jacob apparently left home and went on a journey, right?

Then I read verse 7 a few lines later:

And Jacob obeyed his father and mother and went to Padan Aram. (Genesis 28:7)

I think you’ll agree that even for those of us who could use a good night’s sleep it is now becoming quite clear. Jacob went on a journey.

Then I read verse 10, another few lines down the page:

And Jacob went out of Beersheba and he went to Haran. (Genesis 28:10)

Okay, why all this repetition? Do I really need to be told three times that Jacob embarked on a trip? It’s axiomatic that there are no unnecessary words in the Torah and certainly no unnecessary repetitions. So why are verses 5 and 7 not sufficient to launch Jacob on his journey? Not until verse 10 is he finally on his way.

The answer is that the Torah is teaching us a timeless truth about life. Verse ten finally informs us that Jacob departed from the place he was at.

You can never go to a new place until you have properly left the old.

This is how the world REALLY works; in order to move on, you have to be able to leave the past behind. And leaving the past can be difficult and painful. Until verse 10 informs us that finally, Jacob left Beersheba he was not really able to embark on his new life adventure.

Sometimes our difficulty bonding with new friends is the result of our subconscious souls knowing that we haven’t closed things out with old friends whom we may have wronged or neglected. I remember one young woman who fell in love with a student of mine but unfortunately, he didn’t reciprocate the sentiment. During one of our conversations, she casually revealed to me that she had once been in a brief common-law marriage. Drawing from today’s insight of ancient Jewish wisdom, I suggested that she go ahead and secure a formal religious divorce from that earlier short-lived marriage. It was just possible, I reasoned, that she was subconsciously holding back as she still felt spiritually united to that man from long ago, and it was possible, that on some profound spiritual level, my student was feeling that this woman was not truly free.

Well, you can guess the outcome. She put closure on the earlier misadventure, she departed from that place. She and my student have been happily married for years and are raising a beautiful family in Southern California. One can never be 100% sure of cause and effect, but I nonetheless tell you what happened.

Oh, and you probably want to know what happened to my friend and congregant, the psychiatrist who failed to mourn his father. Happily, he followed the guidance I offered him from ancient Jewish wisdom, and though late, he embarked on a proper period of mourning after which, his life gradually began to turn around. Would things have improved for him in any event? I can’t say but I do know that failing to properly close the chapter on his life with his father prevented him from stepping into the future.


Did it take you longer to finish Scrolling through Scripture Unit 1 than you expected? When we launched this foundational Bible class online in November 2020, we promised you 15 lessons. As we went along, Rabbi Lapin kept adding more. Our earliest students are now completing the eighteenth and final lesson of the series. Their feedback tell us that it has been a great experience.

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13 thoughts on “Leave Before You Can Travel Forward”

  1. Carmine Pescatore

    People tend to build their own prisons. The past can’t be changed so don’t relive it.

    1. No, the past can’t be changed. The only thing you can change about the past is your present attitude toward it. No, we shouldn’t relive the past. But sometimes revisiting things that happened in the past, looking at how those events and people affected us, can help us change our attitudes and actions in the present and future. Only then can we release ourselves from those prisons we build so well.

  2. After reading such so deep thoughts in this amazing lesson, I became convinced that we don’t even know how much we still have to learn from Bible wisdom!
    Thank you, Professor Rabbi!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Mark–
      Your words are true for us all. Each of us has more to learn in ancient Jewish wisdom and more to gain from it than we can even imagine.

  3. Today’s article is yet another example to enforce what Rabbi Lapin keeps saying, “Everyone needs a rabbi.” I am convinced that that is no exaggeration. While Christians, including me, believe in the Old Testament, I think much of the “ancient Jewish wisdom” goes over our heads in our read of the Old Testament, at least it does me.

    I never miss an RDL podcast and have never missed a single one. Since I have started listening to the RDL podcast (about a year after it started, I went back and listened to the ones I missed from the beginning), I haven’t missed a single Thought Tools or Susan’s Musings. My quality of life and understanding of the world has been greatly enhanced.

    Most of the things discussed by the Lapins, I have already believed, but they helped me to understand why I should believe those things.

    Thank you, Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin for making my life better. I am sure many feel the same way that I do.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Wow, what a meaningful letter for us, dear David–
      We so appreciate your gracious words. As you know, we live to hear the words, “the ancient Jewish wisdom you teach really helped my life”.
      Do stay in touch,
      Warmest wishes

  4. The irony that this bitter man was a psychiatrist was not lost on me! Of course his practice suffered.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Rich,
      I had briefly considered changing that detail to conceal his identity from the few readers who’d know who he is but I reconsidered when I realized it was somewhat relevant.

  5. It’s sad when I hear about sons and daughters estranged from their father. It’s just a sad way to live, apart of leaving the past relationships behind is to forgive them if they wronged you. Forgiving and loving your father is important, how will you love your heavenly father if you can’t love your earthly one?

  6. Another valuable lesson from our Rabbi, I so much appreciate these lessons because the one who has benefited the most is the students of the Rabbi and those of us who put this advice into action. All I can say is : Thank You so much Rabbi Lapin for caring about us.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you for your kind words Joseph
      We are very uplifted when we hear that our work helped someone. Just one point, you graciously acknowledge me but you may not be aware that Mrs Susan Lapin has as much to do with these teachings as I do. Whatever we create, whether it is the new Scrolling Through Scripture series, or each Thought Tool, is as much the product of the two of us collaborating as are our children. So we both appreciate you telling us about our ancient Jewish wisdom being helpful in your life.

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