Part of the human condition is that often we only appreciate people, places, and things most when we don’t have access to them anymore. There is actually a phenomenon called the “Death Effect” - when an artist dies, their artwork goes up in value. It all of a sudden becomes collectors’ items because there will not be any new art from this artist going forward. Our task is to recognize this reality and appreciate all we can while we can.
וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה׃
Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran.
Rashi, the father of all commentaries writes here:
ויצא. לֹא הָיָה צָרִיךְ לִכְתֹּב אֶלָּא וַיֵּלֶךְ יַעֲקֹב חָרָנָה, וְלָמָּה הִזְכִּיר יְצִיאָתוֹ? אֶלָּא מַגִּיד שֶׁיְּצִיאַת צַדִּיק מִן הַמָּקוֹם עוֹשָׂה רֹשֶׁם, שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁהַצַּדִּיק בָּעִיר, הוּא הוֹדָהּ הוּא זִיוָהּ הוּא הֲדָרָהּ; יָצָא מִשָּׁם, פָּנָה הוֹדָהּ פָּנָה זִיוָהּ פָּנָה הֲדָרָהּ.
ויצא AND JACOB WENT OUT—It need have written simply “And Jacob went to Haran’’; why then does it mention his departure from Beersheba?It intends to tell us that the departure of a righteous person from his city makes an impression. As long as a righteous man is in his city, he is its glory and splendor and beauty; when he leaves it, there also depart its glory, its splendor, and its beauty.
There was literally a gaping hole in Beersheba when Jacob left. These are the facts of life, whether a person leaves because they die and go to the next world, or they merely leave the city, or even where they work. Everyone plays a role and makes an impact in the space that they occupy. Wise are those who appreciate the gifts around them while they are still there.
This Shabbat falls on Thanksgiving weekend. Although this holiday weekend is known for Black Friday, popular football games, and family gatherings, it’s really about gratitude for the blessings we enjoy in life. Learning to feel and express gratitude is a skill that we are not born with, but rather one needs to learn to develop and flex one’s gratitude muscles daily in order to appreciate all that G-d has bestowed upon us.
Here’s wishing you and yours a Shabbat Shalom, a happy Thanksgiving weekend. Let’s aim to be thankful this weekend for all the people who serve as blessings in our lives.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence