| Parshah |

Point of No Return

Break away from the Lavans in your life, get out of your personal Mitzrayim, and only go forward


“This pile is a witness… that I will not pass this pile toward you, and you will not pass this pile… toward me to harm.” (Bereishis 31:52)



avan runs after Yaakov, but he’s not able to harm him. They speak, and then they make a pile of stones as a monument of their boundaries toward each other. Lavan says he won’t pass the stones to approach Yaakov, and Yaakov says he won’t pass the stones to return to Lavan. It’s a very strange agreement between a father-in-law and a son-in-law.
The Vilna Gaon says that whatever happened with Yaakov when he left Lavan’s house was a “maaseh avos siman labanim — an act of the forefathers that serves as a sign of the future for their children” that came into play at Yetzias Mitzrayim. Let’s take that premise of the Gra and explain a life lesson that one can learn for himself (Rabbi Reisman, Shiurim al Hachumash).

These days I’m staying close to home base, avoiding going out if not necessary. To keep myself busy and avoid having the extra headspace that allows me to obsess over war statistics and irrelevant info, I’ve found myself tackling all sorts of projects I’ve put off for years. So I was organizing my closet when I found the diary I kept in high school. It was a hardcover composition notebook, the kind that came with a black-and-white marbleized cover. Do they still make such notebooks?

Slowly opening the cover, I was overwhelmed by a deluge of emotions. But flipping to the first page, I couldn’t help grinning. Talk about paranoia — I had written the entire journal in code. Nothing too complex; undercover agent I was not. I’d used a simple code of spelling out each letter as it sounds phonetically, and linking all the words and paragraphs together without any spaces. The running text in my loopy handwriting was enough to discourage younger siblings from trying to decipher my thoughts.

Often, a person decides to change his direction in life, in his avodas Hashem. Sometimes, he changes his entire life, sometimes only one aspect, such as moving from one shul to another for frumkeit reasons, or from one group of friends to another. A person has moments in life in which he feels strengthened to try to take a step forward. The biggest danger, however, is when a person looks back.
When he looks back to what he had and what he gave up to get where he is now, he may pause in his growth. But he must realize that wherever he is, there are ups and downs — times of happiness and sadness, times when he feels accomplished, and times when he’s frustrated. The trick to a life of serving HaKadosh Baruch Hu, is to never go back over a boundary that you’ve erected for yourself.

But, oh! How quickly did that code come back to me! Within seconds, I was absorbed, catching up on DMTs  deep and meaningful thoughts of tenth-grade me. And how amusing and almost awkward it was to see my strong opinions, philosophies, and ideals… the conviction that I knew it all and could change the world… the angst of being a teenager and not being able to prove I could effect those global changes… I was lost in those years as I turned page after page.

In  our avodas Hashem, there’s a concept that if you want to grow, get past whatever foolishness you’re abandoning. Don’t look back. That’s the message of this pile of stones.
Yaakov calls it Gal Eid — the witness pile. The place of the stones was witness to Klal Yisrael taking this lesson for life. Break away from the Lavans in your life, get out of your personal Mitzrayim, and only go forward.

“Mooooommmmy! What’s for supper?”

The shrill childish call intruded on my juvenile journey. I closed the journal and then paused before placing it back on the shelf. Did I want to continue reading it further? Delve more into the high-school me?

Shaking my head, I put the notebook back on the top shelf where it had been for the last two decades. Thankfully, my mind was occupied with the small world of my family. And step by step, I was fully involved in the here and now, grateful for any small change I was able to accomplish in my life. Shaking the cobwebs of the past, I turned resolutely to the present.

Ready or not, here I seeohemee! (Got it??)


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 869)

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