Arami Oveid Avi by Rabbi Yosef Adler


The following appears on pages 21-23 of Rabbi Adler’s Haggadah with commentary based on the Shiurim of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

Lavan Bikeish La’akor Et HaKol,” “Lavan attempted to eradicate everything,” states the Haggadah. Virtually all commentators find it difficult to identify the source which indicates that Lavan attempted to do so. The Gra says that, indeed, there is no explicit source. But that is precisely the point. There are times when our enemies fully announce their intentions to eradicate Am Yisrael. At other times they contemplate the idea but do not state their intentions publicly. HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the “Chofeis Kol Chadrei Baten UVochein Kelayot VaLeiv,” who inspects our innermost thoughts, is aware of their intentions and destroys them as well. Proof to this idea is Lavan, whose intention to destroy is not documented, but “HaKadosh Baruch Hu Matzileinu MiYado,” “Hashem saves us from his hand.”

Based on comments the Rav made on Parashat VaYeitzei, we can identify a textual source to support the Ba’al Haggadah’s contention. The Torah states, “VaYar Yaakov Et Penei Lavan VeHineih Einenu Imo KiTemol Shilshom,” “Yaakov noticed,” that after twenty years of faithful service, his father-in-law “Lavan was no longer pleased with him” (BeReishit 31:2). HaKadosh Baruch Hu appears to him and tells him to return to Eretz Kena’an; upon receiving this command, Yaakov picks up his entire family and leaves suddenly without saying goodbye to his father-in-law. Lavan pursues Yaakov and complains that he did not even have an opportunity to bid farewell to his children and grandchildren. Then, the critical Pesukim dictate, “VeAtah Lechah Nichretah Verit Ani VaAtah,” “Let us sign a covenant, you and I” (31:44). When analyzing this Pasuk one must keep in mind that there are two different types of covenants. One indicates that the two parties will pursue a common goal, a shared destiny and pledge to help one another: there will be interaction between their respective cultures and there should be no hesitancy to intermarry with one another. There is, however, a different type of covenant where the two parties have no interest in pursuing a common path. The agreement consists exclusively in respecting each other’s independence. “I will not attack you, and you will not attack me.” Yaakov agrees with Lavan to establish a covenant.

However, Yaakov and Lavan have opposing visions as to what the covenant will represent. “VaYikach Yaakov Aven VaYrimeha Matzeivah,” “Yaakov takes a single stone, making it a monument” (31:45). “VaYomer Yaakov LeEchav Liketu Avanim,” “Yaakov tells the clan of Lavan (see Ramban) to gather stones” (31:46). For Yaakov, the symbol of the covenant is the single stone which shall erect a barrier between his family and Lavan’s. On the other hand, from Lavan’s perspective, the symbol of the covenant is the gathering of many stones, of different cultures and values, and merging them together. In confirming his understanding of the covenant, Lavan states, “Elohei Avraham VEilohei Nachor Yishpetu Veineinu,” “The god of Avraham and the god of Nachor should judge between us” (31:53). Avraham, in his early age, was an idolater, just as Nachor was. It is this god, the god the pagans worshipped, that should serve as witness to the covenant, because Lavan would like to merge the two traditions. But Yaakov—“VaYishava Yaakov BeFachad Aviv Yitzchak,” “Yaakov swore by the God of his father Yitzchak” (ibid.)—but this God did not include Avraham’s. His understanding of the covenant is to be confirmed exclusively by the God of Yitzchak—Yitzchak, who served HaKadosh Baruch Hu his entire life.

At the end of the episode, the Pasuk reads, “VaYizbach Yaakov Zevach BaHar,” “Yaakov slaughtered an offering on the mountain” (31:54)—in preparing the feast, Yaakov slaughters the animal in accordance with the laws of Shechitah (“VeZavachta . . . KaAsheir Tziviticha,” “You shall slaughter . . . as I have commanded you” [Devarim 12:21]). Ramban points out that Yaakov observed Torah law only while living in Israel; however, at this time, Yaakov is still in Chutz LaAretz. Why bother to prepare the meat in accordance with the rules of ritual slaughtering? We see from here that the laws of Kashrut are designed to remind us that social interaction between Jew and Gentile, expressed throughout the world by food and drink, should not exist. Social interaction can lead to more permanent relationships being established which threaten the very fabric of our unique identity. Had Lavan succeeded in convincing Yaakov that his understanding of the covenant should dominate, this, in effect, would have been the end of Kedushat Yisrael and the uniqueness of Am Yisrael. As such, we understand more clearly, “Lavan Bikeish La’akor Et HaKol.”

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