In this week’s Parsha Yaacov Avinu is on his way home. After a long stay away from his family he’s on route to reunite with them once again.
Chazal however have remarked that Yaacov Avinu’s absence from home came at a heavy price for him, a price that he would pay in the future when Yosef would be “away” from him corresponding those years that Yaacov was away from Yitzchak.
“As it has been taught: ‘We find that Joseph was away from his father
twenty-two years just as Jacob our father was absent from his father’.” (Bavli Megilah 17a)
The Gemara there in Masechet Megilah points out that Yaacov Avinu was in fact away from home for much more than twenty two years. He in fact was away for thirty six years, yet fourteen of them were not “considered”.
Rashi, in an uncharacteristically long comment at the end of Parshat Toldot explains the whole sequence of events:
” 9. So Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his other wives as a wife. ” (Breishit 28;9)
the sister of Nebaioth: Since it says, “the daughter of Ishmael,” do I not know that she was the sister of Nebaioth? But this teaches us that Ishmael died after he had betrothed her to Esau, before her marriage, and her brother Nebaioth gave her hand in marriage. This also teaches us that Jacob was sixty-three years old at that time, for Ishmael was seventy-four years old when Jacob was born. Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac, and Isaac was sixty years old when they were born, hence [Ishmael was] seventy-four. He lived one hundred and thirty seven years, as it is stated (above 25:17): “and these are the years of the life of Ishmael,” etc. Consequently, Jacob was sixty-three at Ishmael’s death. We learn from here that he hid for fourteen years in the house of Eber and afterwards went to Haran. [This can be deduced from the fact that] he stayed in Laban’s house before Joseph’s birth only fourteen years, as it is said (below 31:41): “I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your sheep,” and the payment for the sheep took place after Joseph was born, as it is said (below 30:25): “And it came to pass when Rachel had given birth to Joseph, etc.,” and Joseph was thirty years old when he became ruler, and from then until Jacob descended to Egypt were nine years: seven of plenty and two of famine. And Jacob said to Pharaoh (below 47:9): “The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred and thirty years.” Go forth and figure 14 years before Joseph was born, plus the 30 years of Joseph’s age, plus the 9 years from the time he became ruler until Jacob came. The total is 53. And when he [Jacob] left his father, he was 63, totaling 116. Yet he said [to Pharaoh, “I am] one hundred and thirty years old.” Hence, there are fourteen years missing. Thus, you learn that after he had received the blessings, he hid in the house of Eber for fourteen years. [From Meg. 17:1] (However, he was not punished [for these fourteen years] because of the merit [of having studied] Torah, for Joseph was separated from his father only twenty-two years, i.e., from age seventeen until age thirty-nine, corresponding to the twenty-two years that Jacob was separated from his father [when] he did not honor him. These are the twenty years in Laban’s house, plus the two years that he spent traveling [home], as it is written (below 33:17): “And he built himself a house, and for his cattle he made booths.” Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory inferred from this verse that he spent eighteen months on the road, for the house was for the rainy season, and the booths were for the summer. And, according to the calculation of the verses, which we calculated above, from the time he left his father until he went down to Egypt, at the age of one hundred and thirty, we find an additional fourteen years, therefore, it is certain that he hid in the house of Eber to learn Torah while on his way to the house of Laban. And because of the merit of the Torah, he was not punished for them [those fourteen years], and Joseph was separated from him for only twenty-two years-measure for measure.). 
As Rashi points out, Yaacov spent fourteen years in the Beit Midrash of Ever learning Torah before going to the house of Lavan. For these years he was not punished “because of the merit of Torah”.
The Gemara learns from this even further:
“Rabbah said in the name of R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha: The study of the
Torah is superior to the honoring of father and mother. For, for the fourteen years that Yaacov spent in the house of Ever, he was not punished.” (Bavli Megilah 16b)
The Maharsha there asks a very strong question on this Gemara. Why should Yaacov be punished at all for the years he was away from his parents since they were the ones to send him away in the first place?! He had gone on their command and with their consent and surely they were not “makpid” on him for being away.
The Maharsha brings an answer in the name of the Imrei Noam, that after fourteen years Eisav’s anger for Yaacov had lessened and it would have been safe for him to return. Even so, Yaacov stayed away for an additional twenty-two years and for those he was punished.
The Iyun Ya’acov takes issue with that answer. If it was so, how are we able to learn from the fact that Yaacov wasn’t punished for those fourteen years that Talmud Torah is greater than Kibud Av Va’am. Perhaps it is not, and Yaacov wasn’t punished because his parents had sent him!
He suggests that maybe Yitzchak and Rivka intended Yaacov to go for only a short while, and he was punished for extending his absence from home for so long. However, he says, that too seems unreasonable as Yaacov wasn’t to blame for that at all and he was compelled to stay with Lavan.
The Iyun Yaacov therefore suggests (in no more than a short sentence, which I think though is so insightful) that what the Gemara means when it says Yaacov was “punished” is not be understood in the usual way of punishment. It’s not that Yaacov did a sin and had to be punished for it. The issue is that Yaacov did not do Kibbud Av Va’em for twenty-two years.
Kibbud Av Va’em is one of those Mitzvot that the Mishna says about them ” one eats there fruits in this world”. If one respects their parents, one’s children will respect them. If one does not, even if one is compelled beyond their control, then their children will not respect them.
Regarding the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av Va’em the Torah says “Lema’an Ya’arichun Yamecha”
“In order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you.” (Shmot 20;12)
Shad”al  explains in his commentary on this Pasuk that the word “lema’an” should not be understood as meaning “in order that” , in other words, that you do this mitzvah in order so that your days will be lengthened, but rather it means “ki al yedei kach”, the caused result of this mitzvah will be long life.
It follows therefore, that reward and punishment, at least in the context of the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av Va’em, as well as the other Mitzvot mentioned in the Braitha of Mitzvot “whose fruits a person enjoys in this world” should be understood as meaning that one who performs these actions will necessarily affect a positive, mutual and reciprocal result.
Conversely though, it means that there are actions that if not done, no matter what the excuse or justification, simply cannot produce their benefits.
In the words of the Iyun Yaacov:
“and since Yaacov Avinu did not do Kibbud Av Va’em , even though he was “be’ones” (compelled, he had an excuse),his beloved son Yosef,did not honour him for twenty two years, even though he was involved during that time with an equally important mitzvah(marriage and building his family), he did not have the “sachar” (had not caused the effect) of the mitzvah.”
In conclusion an anecdote I was told about the Kotzke Rebbe even though I’v never been able to verify it.
A Student of the Kotzker Rebbe came up to him to apologize for and explain why he had not been in his shiur that day.
The Rebbe replied to him: “There are two types of “am ha’aretzim” (ignoramuses). There is an “am ha’aretz” with an excuse and there is an “am ha’aretz” without an excuse, but they both remain “am ha’aretzim”. 
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