By Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 98 NUMBER 7
November 28, 2020
Kislev 11, 5781
Candlelighting Time 4:18 PM
Yaakov spent twenty long years at the house of Lavan and after Yosef was born, he decided that it was time to leave. He gathered all his possessions and began the long trek home. Meanwhile, Lavan had been preoccupied and only found out three days later about Yaakov’s departure. He set out and quickly reached where Yaakov was camped out. He was fuming but Hashem had come to him warning him not to harm Yaakov. Therefore, he was limited in his response. However, he did make a covenant with him that Yaakov should never abuse his wives, Lavan’s daughters nor his children, Lavan’s grandchildren. A stone was place on the ground where this discussion took place and he stated that ‘it’ will be the witness to this agreement. Rashi explains that this refers to Hashem, a rather interesting point that Lavan the utmost denier of religious sacrament should say. Indeed, Nachmonides disagrees with Rashi and this could be the reason. Rather he understands that the very stern nature of the agreement will be the enforcement of their discussion because if either violates the terms of this agreement, then he will be punished with a curse.
The sefer K’sav V’hakabala notes that Lavan, the epitome of evil, would castigate Yaakov and admonish him to treat his wives and children appropriately. His complaints against Yaakov notwithstanding, Lavan berates him for his past conduct and obligates him to control himself in the future! This is the way of all evil men who actually are the perpetrators yet blame others. In this instance Yaakov is branded as immoral. Therefore, Lavan although ‘forgiving’ his iniquities requires him to establish a binding agreement for the future security of his family.
However, it is interesting to note that Yaakov chose a stone to represent this covenant. Perhaps we can explain that the essence of the struggle between Lavan and Yaakov extends to the very essence of the foundations of the world. In other words, their contention is not simply tangential based upon whether or not Yaakov served Lavan faithfully, rather lines of demarcation between them are very fundamental and basic to life and our appreciation for its objective. As Yaakov states that he lived with Lavan, yet he observed all the mitzvos and was not adversely affected.
The Talmud relates a story that a young man rescued a young woman from a pit and decided to marry her. They said to each other who will be our witnesses that we made this decision. Since she had been saved from the pit and at that very moment a weasel was passing by, they concurred that they would be the witnesses. He forgot about his oath and married another woman. The first child that they had fell into a pit and died and the second one was killed by a weasel. She questioned her husband about these strange events, and he recalled the oath he had made. She made him divorce her and he remarried the first woman that he had previously met. The moral of the story is that when we are involved in actions which are of supreme and ultimate importance, the very world itself encompasses us as well. Therefore, in a much more significant situation such as that of Yaakov and Lavan, the very essence of the earth itself, a stone became the tangible advocate of their connection. The message to us is that although we do not realize the importance of the world around us, Hashem orchestrates that the planet surrounding us embraces us with care and concern as we integrate Hashem into our personal lives.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
When Yaakov originally came to Lavan he thought that perhaps he was hiding valuable gems in his mouth, so he kissed him. Therefore, when he bid farewell to his daughters and grandchildren, he did not need to kiss Yaakov since he realized that he was not concealing anything from him.