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Friday, November 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.


The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

One of the more famous teachings of Ramban (12:6) is that the main purpose of the extended text retelling the story of our forefathers is to serve as a foreshadowing of that which will befall the generations to come, an idea commonly known as "maaseh avos siman labanim." At the end of the parsha, Lavan seems to take a page out of the playbook that has already been written by Avimelech and would go on to endure for millennia and is perhaps more apparent in our day than in the many centuries previous. It's really quite simple. Plan A: Destroy the Jews. Plan B: Bind the Jews to treaties to protect against any further losses. So, too, when Lavan finally realizes that he cannot overcome Yaakov (31:49-54), he insists on some pretty strict covenants moving forward.

Indeed, one might point out that this is a rather standard political strategy. (I offered a slightly different spin on this idea in a previous shtikle.) But my father, a"h, in More Torah Therapy, points out some deeper nuances in this exchange which are even further a harbinger of what is to come in our dealings with the nations. It would only be appropriate to quote the text directly:

Nevertheless, in spite of all this, the deal that is struck between Lavan and Yaakov turns out to be one-sided. The Gaon of Vilna points out that there were two objects used for the treaty – the maẕayvah (the monument; alternately referred to as miẕpah) and the gal, the heap. The Gaon suggests that gal relates to megulah, meaning "obvious," whereas miẕpah relates to ẕafun, meaning "hidden." Lavan was only obligated to avoid obvious trespass, his was a gal treaty. But, as far as Yaakov was concerned, even hidden trespass was forbidden; Yaakov's was a miẕpah treaty. Thus, Lavan says that "if you afflict my daughters and if you take wives besides my daughters" (Bereshit 31:50), it will be a breach of their agreement.

In effect, Yaakov had to be moral not only to the outside world, but even within his four walls, in his thoughts and actions. Yaakov had accepted this for himself long before signing the agreement with Lavan. The double standard of morality here imposed by Lavan is only a prototype of what has happened throughout history. Many nations have demanded a form of moral superiority from the Jew. This has given them carte blanche to attack the Jew at every turn for not being as morally superior as they were supposed to be.

Yaakov accepted Lavan's terms, but not in Lavan's context. He accepted the responsibilities of a higher morality, not out of weakness, but out of strength; not because it was imposed, but because it was presupposed. By his show of strength, he categorically rejected the right of anyone to impose a double standard of morality.

The message of this dialogue between Yaakov and Lavan remains clear in our time. Note, for example, the illegitimate accusations hurled against the Jews, accusations which are not only untrue but also indicative of a double standard. Arab states are allowed to persecute Jews with impunity, but Israel is held culpable by those who consider even thriving business people in the "administered territories" to be "refugees."

In this age of double standards, Yaakov's approach stands out. The Jew accepts a higher standard of morality not for the sake of being superior and not because of being the weaker, but out of the strength and conviction that this is the way to live.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Wordsthatsticktogether

Dikdukian: From his Sleep

Dikdukian: Complete it

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule

Dikdukian: Different Types of Kissing

Dikdukian: Come on, People - Part II

AstroTorah: Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: Yaakov's Lesson on Zemanei HaYom by R' Ari Storch

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