Torah Insights for Shabbat
Parshat Vayeitze 5758
December 5, 1997
The Passover Haggadah teaches that Yaakov's father-in-law, Lavan,
was far more evil than Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. How so? Pharaoh's solution to the
Jewish problem was to kill all Jewish males. Lavan's strategy was to kill all Jews, male
Lavan's scheme was also qualitatively different. The commentaries point out that he did not intend to kill them physically but rather to erase them through love, by drawing them so close that their uniqueness would disappear.
These two approaches to destroying the Jewish nation became the paradigms for future attempts. Fifty years ago, we witnessed the Pharaoh model in Germany's final solution. Today, the freedoms of America follow Lavan's method.
But the intended results are the same: No more Jews.
The one question that remains to be answered is how our Sages knew of Lavan's plan. Though he is clearly described in Parshas Vayeitzei as a trickster and a dishonest person, nowhere is it written of a plan to destroy his daughters' family. From where does the notion come that Lavan
wanted to eradicate the Jewish people?
When a discussion in Parshas Vayeitzei between Yaakov and Lavan is looked over carefully, a clearer picture of Lavan and his intentions emerges. Toward the end of the parshah, Yaakov Avinu runs away from Lavan. When Lavan catches up to him, he challenges him with the words, "Your sons are mine; your daughters are mine."
Immediately after making that audacious claim to Yaakov, Lavan makes the following proposal. "Let us make a covenant, a treaty." A treaty can bring friends closer or it can simply be a pact agreeing not to go to war against each other. It was the latter that Yaakov agreed to.
Lavan, dissatisfied with Yaakov's understanding of the treaty, points out to him that they speak the same language. He builds a monument and calls it yegar sahadusa (Aramaic for testimony monument). Yaakov quickly responds, I once spoke Aramaic, but my language is now Hebrew. And Yaakov called it Galeid (Hebrew for testimony monument).
A few verses later, Lavan reminds Yaakov that he can not deny that they share the same grandfather Avraham Avinu. They have the same roots. Maybe so, responds Yaakov, but I received the mesorah from my father Yitzchak.
Yaakov slaughters an animal and partakes of it without Lavan and his entourage. This tells Lavan that Yaakov can not even break bread with him. For the Jewish people to assimilate with him will bear no fruit.
Lavan relents. He kisses his daughters goodbye and leaves.
The enemies of Israel are many and their strategies come in different forms. In our generation, we must be on the lookout for Lavan, who is trying ever so hard to weave us into the fabric of western civilization.
With G-d's help his efforts will ultimately bear little fruit.
Based on an article in Leyl Shimurim by Rabbi Zvi Dov Kanotopsky z"l.
Rabbi Shlomo Crandall
Rabbi Crandall is the Rabbi of Bnai Torah in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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