Drash Cards for VaYeitze 5779
by Marc Mangel
Open a classical hagaddah and you will read “Come and learn what Laban the Syrian tried to do to our father Jacob. While Pharaoh decreed only against the males, Laban desired to uproot all”. The Hebrew is
- I think that we can gain a better understanding of this from what we read today, particularly
Ch 31, v20. Let’s first look at it in English
– Rebbe’s chumash: “Jacob duped Laba the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing”, with no interpolated Rashi.
– Koren chumash: “An Yaakov outwitted Lavan the Aramean…”
– JPS: “Jacob kept Laban the Aramean in the dark….”
– Art Scroll:
- Now in Hebrew [read Ch 31, v 20]
- The literal translation is “Jacob stole the heart of Lavan the Aramean…”
- According to Nachshoni’s Studies in the Weekly Parashah “The commentators are astonished”. He quotes S’forno, Akeiha, Or Chayim, Alshech, Abarbanel, the Ralbag, and Chatam Sofer – none of whom can agree on what this means. Nehama Leibowitz is silent on this verse.
- In JPS commentary, Sarna has a footnote “The Hebrew contains a double word play. Lev echoes Lavan while ‘arami evokes the stem resh-mem-hey, meaning to cheat. Laban the heartless cheat has been beaten at his own game!”
- R Shlomo Crandall, Modern Orthodox writes “Laban did not intend to kill them physically but rather to erase them through love – through assimilation – by drawing them so close that their uniqueness would disappear”
- Exactly how is Jacob stealing Lavan’s heart?
- •In verse 28, Lavan says “You did not even let me kiss my grandsons and daugthers”. In verse 43 we read “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my (grand)children”.
- •In verse 30 he asks “Why did you steal my gods?” In the Rebbe’s chumash the interpolation in verse 19 leads us to read “Rachel stole the idols that belonged to her father (hoping in this way to wean him from idolatry). Laban even plays the card that he and Jacob share the same grandfather, to which Jacob responds “maybe so, but I received the tradition from Yitzchak, my father”.
- Everything in the Torah teaches us to dislike Lavan, but here we can also sympathize with him: Lavan realizes that he will likely never see his daughters or grandchildren again. Furthermore, he realizes that his daughters have given up his religion and that his grandchildren will never know about it (which is what happens). Jacob is indeed stealing Lavan’s heart.
- To return to the Hagadah: had Jacob not stolen Lavan’s heart, then the tradition he received from Isaac would likely not have been passed on and he and his family would have been absorbed into Lavan’s culture. In short, none of us would be here.