Beware of the Gap! Jacob understood it well!!

Any person, who has been called up to the Torah, will note that it does not contain the familiar kind of punctuation which we are used to seeing in books. There are no periods, exclamation points, or question marks; no commas, colons, semi colons, hyphens, or the like.

But there are two forms of punctuation in the Torah to indicate the beginning of a new topic, and they are spaces. When a topic in Torah comes to an end, and a new topic is about to begin, the words stop before the end of a line, and the remainder of the line is left open. The new topic begins on the next line. This is called a “pesucha,” or an open ended line.

When a new, yet related, topic begins, the line is not open at the end, but a significant space the length of 9 letters is left empty between the words. This is called a “setumah,” or a closed ended line.

There is only one exception. And that is last week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei. It is the only portion in the entire Torah that does not have these breaks within it, not a “pesucha,” nor even a “setumah.”

This is strange. Our portion covers twenty full years in the life of Jacob, filled with many diverse encounters, experiences, and tribulations. Why is there not a single space in the entire portion?

Jacob never went to the Gap when Leaving Home

This portion tells the story of the first Jewish exile: “And Jacob left Beer Sheba (where his parents lived in the south of the Holy Land) and travelled to Charan (a city in Mesopotamia, today Northern Iraq.)” During the following two decades Jacob would reside in morally impoverished and Pagan Charan, away from his saintly parents, far from the tents of spiritual vision and clarity pervading his youth, living with his deceitful and crooked father-in-law, Laban.

But that is where he builds a life for himself: he marries, raises a family and works hard. Vayeitzei concludes with Jacob leaving exile and journeying back to the Holy Land: “And Jacob went on his way and Divine angels encountered him.”  

This portion, then, captures the timeless drama of Jewish exile. Jacob is the first Jew to leave his parents’ home and cocoon, and recreate Jewish life on foreign soil; his descendants would be forced to do so again and again throughout their history.

What was the secret behind Jacob’s ability to maintain his moral and spiritual equilibrium throughout his two decades in exile? Why did the first Jewish refugee not “assimilate?” And what is the secret of the descendants of Jacob to live in exile and yet remain firmly etched in their identity as Jews?

The answer: There was absolutely no “gap-space” between “And Jacob left Beer Sheba,” in the opening of Vayeitzei, and “Jacob went on his way and Divine angels encountered him,” at the end of Vayeitzei.

Geographically, Jacob left Beer Sheba in the Holy Land, he departed from Isaac and Rebecca and their G‑d-centred world; but in his mindset there was absolutely no space or gap between the two: he remained one with his roots and with his source and was merely continuing their story within a new environment and culture. Jacob did not allow any space, any break, between his origin and his new condition. 

And despite all problems, philosophies, explanations and rationalizations, our presence demonstrates that it worked. As long as we did not allow an interruption, a space, in the transmitting of Torah from generation to generation, the mission remained secure.

Jacob and his children understood there can be no “missing link or gap” in our consciousness.