Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayetze
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher ben Chaim

The Tie Goes to Our Father


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

9 kislev 5769
Our parasha ends on a peaceful note. Yaakov and Lavan reconciled after Lavan’s anger over Yaakov’s fleeing his home and the taking of his terafim was assuaged. They seem to be in full agreement as they make monuments to commemorate their agreement to never quarrel again. However, careful reading of the Torah’s account reveals a lot of give and take… with Yaakov succeeding in obtaining more take than give.
Yaakov initiated the various symbols. First a single stone was erected to serve as a matzeva (monument). Next came multiple stones upon which the parties ate. This reminds us of the stones in the beginning of the parasha, on the night of Yaakov’s famous dream of the angels and the ladder. Yaakov had taken stones, which turned into one unified stone, which became a matzeva. Here the order was changed. Perhaps Yaakov was indicating that, regarding his relationship with Lavan, he did not want lasting unity, just a peaceful, distant co-existence.
The eating on the pile of rocks may represent a summary of their resolved dispute. Lavan said that everything Yaakov had was his. Yaakov said that it was he who worked feverishly to ensure Lavan’s well-being. Eating on the stones indicates that the two had benefited from each other. However, looking to the future, the two disagreed on the result of the past partnership. Lavan suggested an Aramaic name. This is stressed by the fact that this is the only use of Aramaic in the Torah, even though many of the recorded discussions between the two must have taken place in Aramaic. Yaakov countered with the Hebrew name Galeid. The pasuk (Bereishit 31:48) concludes with Lavan’s agreement to that name, indicating Yaakov’s control of the border crossing.
The next few p’sukim (ibid.:52) illustrate another victory. While Yaakov committed to not return to Lavan’s land with bad intentions, Lavan committed to not coming to Yaakov’s at all. Actually, Hashem had told Lavan the night before not to talk to Yaakov, neither for bad nor for good (ibid.:24). Lavan invoked the names of the two’s common relatives, mentioning the god of his idolatrous grandfather, Nachor, but Yaakov got the last word in, swearing in the name of Yitzchak’s G-d. Lavan is allowed to kiss his daughters and grandchildren. Yaakov was interested that this would be a good-bye kiss, not an attempt to control his descendants’ destiny. Therefore, the Torah stresses that Lavan began returning home before Yaakov commenced his journey to his homeland (ibid. 32:1-2).
The "sign to the children" from these actions of our forefather seems to be in the fact that our legacy is able to ignore the fact that, genetically, we have as much Lavan in us as Yitzchak. This is because Yaakov was able to break the connection between the two - and even do so peacefully, with the help of Divine intervention.

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