When the Torah describes Yaakov and Esav in last week’s Sidra, it says that Esav was a man of the fields and Yaakov was an ISH TAM YOSHEV OHALIM. (Gen. 25:27) Yaakov, the Torah says, sat in the tent. Rashi explains that it means he sat in the tents of the Yeshivot of Shem and Ever and studied Torah.
In this week’s Portion we read that Yaakov fled from his brother and at one point when it turned night it says: VAYISHKAV BAMAKOM HAHU, “he slept in that place”. (Gen. 28:11) Here, too, Rashi says that he went to study in the Bet Midrash of Shem and Ever. He studied there before and he studied there now. What is the difference?
The explanation is that he studied different things. Before when he lived in his father’s house it was a Jewish environment. He studied how a Jew should act and conduct himself when he is among Jews. Later when he was going into Galut, he had to learn how to live among non-Jews. Some things are not the same. You have to have greater fortitude to live up to your beliefs when everyone around you thinks differently. You also have to understand how to act so that you do not shame your faith and not bring ridicule from others who do not understand your ways.
This is what Yaakov had to learn when he left his father and went to live with Lavan. In his new way of life he had to be sure that he maintained his own beliefs even while living among non-Jews. He also had to learn how to act so that his faith would not bring shame to his way of life but rather admiration.