Yaakov sends messengers to his brother Esav with the following message: עִם־לָבָן גַּרְתִּי, “…I have lived with Lavan…”. (Gen. 32,5) Yaakov could have used many other words to indicate he lived with Lavan. Instead, he uses the word גַּרְתִּי. The root of this word is גר, which means a stranger or an alien. Yaakov is telling Esav that he was a stranger there although we know he lived there twenty years.
Yaakov adds an additional message. He tells Esav he had acquired oxen and donkeys and flocks and servant and maidservant. According to Chazal, he also told Esav that though he lived with the heathen Lavan, he, nevertheless, kept all Taryag (613) Mitzvot. Why does Esav care that Yaakov kept the Mitzvot?
Perhaps Yaakov was giving his brother the reason he left Lavan even though he was so successful there. He was telling Esav that there were two things that kept him as a גר, a stranger, in that land. One, his customs and practices were different and strange to Lavan and his people. Secondly, his efforts and diligence made him wealthy, and that the people there could not accept. Although he dwelled among them for twenty years he was still regarded as a stranger. That is why he used the word גַּרְתִּי, he was an alien.
History repeated itself untold times during the long Galut of the Jewish people. Wherever the Jews went their customs seemed strange to their neighbors and their financial successes could not be accepted by the people. They were chased out and had to start a new life elsewhere, and the process repeated itself.