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Friday, December 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

An interesting story surfaced very recently in one of the Jewish news outlets. A gas attendant at a station on the Palisades Parkway came up with a clever scam. When filling up for an Orthodox Jew, he would mention that on Passover, "one of your guys" filled up on gas but forgot his wallet and he paid for it instead. Many individuals ended up giving this man money in order to make a kiddush Hashem. But this is the 21st century and thanks to social media, these stories began to spread and the attendant was exposed as a con artist. He targeted Orthodox Jews, however, because he knew he could rely on their honesty and integrity and feeling of responsibility.

To some degree, it is a similar tactic employed by our enemies around and within Israel who seem to constantly seek the signing of treaties and accords with Israel. The value of these deals, of course, is that the Jews can always be relied on to naïvely keep their word while their supposed counterparts in peace barely heed their side of the bargain.

This is by no means an original ruse. In fact, the last couple of parshiyos expose this as one the oldest tricks in The Book, literally.  First, Avraham is approached by Avimelech (21:22). It appears Avraham's success has led Avimelech to the realization that this is someone he better make sure to keep on his side. So, he engages him in a pact not just for the present but for generations to come. Then, as Yitzchak grows ever powerful, Avimelech approaches him as well (26:26) to secure a mutual deal. History would go on to show that while the progeny of Avraham and Yitzchak carefully kept their side of the deal to the best of their abilities, the Philistine descendants of Avimelech most certainly did not.

Finally, in the end of our parsha we find Lavan pulling a very similar stunt. After realizing Yaakov as a foe he could never overcome, Lavan demands a covenant with Yaakov, ensuring that Yaakov would not act against him. But many generations later, Bil'am had no qualms about dishonoring this agreement in attempting to destroy Yaakov's offspring.

And so it has been and so it will likely always be. But I am not at all suggesting that this is something that should change. In fact, in a Rosh HaShanah shtikle, I suggest that it is in the merit of our steadfast trustworthiness in honouring our agreements with others whether they keep their side or not, that HaShem honours the covenant made with our forefathers, even if we are guilty of violating our pledge to keep the Torah in its entirety. It is simply a virtue that makes up the fabric of our nation.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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