Parshat Vayetze: Delusions that lead to evil.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayetzebrings together two people whose lifestyles were almost completely opposite to each other: Jacob and Laban.

Jacob, escaping from his brother’s wrath, arrives in Haran and meets his mother’s brother, Laban, and their two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loves Rachel and wants to marry her, but Laban forces him to work for him for seven years first.

When the seven years are up, Jacob wants to marry Rachel, but Laban, under the cover of darkness, deceives Jacob and asks him to marry Leah instead of Rachel.

Jacob wakes up in the morning to discover the deception and is furious with Laban.

Laban responds by saying: “It is not done like this in our place to give the youngest before the firstborn” (Genesis 29:26). He promises Jacob that he will be able to marry Rachel, but only after working for him for another seven years.

When those additional seven years were up, Laban asked his son-in-law Jacob to continue working for him, this time for pay. But he repeatedly changed the employment contract in a way that minimized Jacob’s earnings and increased his. After another six years, Jacob wanted to leave Laban and return to Canaan, and to do so, he had to escape with his wives and children.

We could have expected Jacob to do what Laban would have done, to take, without Laban’s knowledge, what was owed to him, or at least not to continue to be a devoted worker.

But when Laban chased after him and caught up with him, Jacob said, “I’ve been with you for 20 years … I haven’t brought home anything broken. [by other animals]… from my hand you would demand it, stolen by day and stolen by night. was [in the field] by day when the heat consumed me, and the frost at night, and my sleep was gone from my eyes ”(Genesis 31: 38-40).

For 20 years, he devotedly herded Laban’s cattle, taking full responsibility for any mishaps. If an animal killed a sheep or if one was stolen, Jacob would not even report it. Rather, he would pay for it out of his own pocket. He cared for Laban’s cattle in the heat of the day and the cold of the night.

On the other hand, Laban’s behavior is curious. As far as he was concerned, he carried himself with impeccable integrity. On the other hand, we see how badly he treated his own family. What led him to behave in such a way that even he did not pay attention to his own behavior?

The answer to this is in the continuation of the story. After Jacob complained about how he had been mistreated over the years, Laban responded in a very strange way: “The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the animals are my animals, And everything you see is mine ”(Genesis 31:43).

Now it is easier for us to understand the depth of Laban’s problem. His perspective is fundamentally distorted. Live in a state of complete illusion. As far as he is concerned, his children are tools to meet his needs, his grandchildren are his private property, and Jacob’s wealth, earned through hard work, belongs to him as well. With such a distorted perspective on property and people, it’s no wonder you deal with the people around you the way you do.

Many of us, without realizing it, can develop a similar deception. We could see the people who work for us as private property, our family members as tools for our needs. This perspective will inevitably lead us to appropriate the property of others for ourselves, without treating those around us with fairness and integrity, and without seeing anything wrong with our own behavior.

To avoid adopting such a perspective, we must adopt the perspective of Jacob who sees everything in his life as a result of God’s grace. When we see the world in this way, it will be easier for us to distinguish between our property and that of others, we will be able to treat our families properly, and we will be grateful for the divine gift of having the privilege of living with them. .

Let’s try to adopt Jacob’s words of prayer, which we will read next week: “I have become small of all the good things and all the truth that you have given to your servant” (Genesis 32:10).

The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy places.

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