ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע ןילך חרנה - And Jacob went out from Be'er Sheva and went to Charan (Bereshit / Genesis 28:10).
ויצא. לא היה צריך לכתוב אלא וילך יעקב חרנה ולמה הזכיר יציאתו אלא מגיד שיציאת צדיק מן המקום עושה רושם שבזמן שהצדיק בעיר הוא הודה הוא זיוה הוא הדרה יצא משם פנה הודה פנה זיוה פנה הדרה
["And he went out": it was not necessary to write anything more than "And Jacob went to Charan". Why then does it mention his departure? Rather, it tells you that the departure of a righteous person from a place creates an imprint: while the tzaddik (righteous person) is in town, he is its splendour, he is its shine, he is its beauty, but after he left from there, its splendour, shine and beauty have left a void.]
(This commentary was written by Amos Wittenberg, and posted on Facebook. Amos gave me permission to post it here).
Many years ago I saw the commentary of the בעל הטורים (Baal Haturim, Rabbeinu Ya'akov ben Asher, a giant of Torah scholarship who lived in the German lands and later in Spain where he left this world around 1340) on this verse. He says:
ויצא יעקב מבאר: בג' פנה זיוה הודה והדרה
["And Jacob left Be'er" is the gematria (numerical equivalent) of "it's splendour shine and beauty have left a void.]
You don't have to be a mathematical genius to check the gematria and notice that it is actually wrong. The first phrase is equivalent to 532 while the second is no more than 403, a gap of 129.
Now, you should know that the commentary of the Baal Haturim was published from the sage's private notes. Some editions will attempt to reconstruct what the author may have meant. I have seen emendations that have פנה זיוה פנה הודה הדרה (its splendour left a void, its shine, its beauty left a void). If you know Hebrew you'll notice that this doesn't scan very well. If you do not know Hebrew, you should make it your business to remedy that as soon as possible. Meanwhile you'll have to trust me: it is very difficult to accept that this wooden phrase is what Baal Haturim meant.
Those many years ago I sat down to try my own reconstruction and I came up with the very same gematria that Rabbi Michael Skobac quoted from a work called וקראת לשבת ענג (vekarata lashabbat oneg).
The gematria of Jacob is 182 and Be'er Sheva amounts to 575. Take AWAY "Jacob" from "Be'er Sheva" and you are left with 393 which is "her splendour, her shine and her beauty have left a void".
Quite literally: Jacob (182) went OUT of Be'er Sheva (575).
At this point I exclaim ברוך שכיונתי (praise be to Hashem that I merited to find an explanation in tune with the truth).
There is a subtlety in this Rashi and consequently in this gematria. Why are the verbs different?
What do I mean? Well, the exit of Jacob is described with the verb יצא (yatza = to leave, to go out) but the departure of the splendour, shine and beauty is called פנה (panah=to vacate, to empty). You can leave a place with or without leaving something behind.
There is another word that begs for our attention. Rashi says that the tzaddik's departure "leaves an impression".
Now, think for a moment. Look at a signet ring which is impressed in wax, in the old-fashioned way of making a seal, say, to authenticate a document. As long as the signet ring is pressing on the wax, you cannot see the seal. But when the ring is withdrawn, THEN the seal appears.
Likewise, as long as we have a tzaddik with us, his presence is glorious but we cannot yet perceive what mark he leaves. Once he has left us, we can start to really appreciate his true impact. Not in terms of who he was but in terms of what changes on his surroundings he managed to make. And more to the point: how he changed ME.
We can go a step further. The Hebrew word for a signet ring is טבעת (taba'at) from the root טבע (teth beth ayin) which, among other things, means *nature", "characteristic".
This is exactly how we can perceive Hashem, the Creator. We cannot see Him. If we would see Him in His full splendour, shine and beauty, it would totally overwhelm us. We simply would not be able to exist.
However, Hashem "made room for us" and "left behind" His fingerprints on His creation. The Righteous One, the Rock of the world can be "seen" when we see these fingerprints.
Exercise for the reader: look at NEXT week's Torah portion. The fight with the angel takes place in a place that is called both פניאל (Pniel=the face of G-d) and פנואל (Pnuel=G-d vacated). That's no mistake. In that place, the Torah says, "Jacob found himself alone" - ויותר יעקב לבדו. Use your favourite Bible software and research these words.
Deep, deep stuff.
(Thank you Amos).