The beginning of this week’s Parashah discusses Mikra Bikurim, the declaration recited by a farmer when he brought his first fruits to the Beit HaMikdash. The first statement recited is “Arami Oveid Avi VaYeired Mitzrayma,” “An Aramean (Lavan) would have destroyed my father (Yaakov), and he descended to Egypt” (Devarim 26:5). Rav Auerbach asks, “Why is the incident with Lavan specifically pointed out as a situation in which Hashem had to save our father? Didn’t Hashem have to save Yaakov from Eisav too? Why not mention Eisav in Mikra Bikurim?” He answers that the difference between Eisav and Lavan was that Eisav’s hatred for Yaakov had a basis. Eisav felt that Yaakov had cheated him out of his birthright and therefore harbored animosity towards Yaakov. Lavan, on the other hand, hated Yaakov with no basis for his hatred. Therefore, as there was no way to divest himself of Lavan’s hatred, Hashem had to intervene and save Yaakov.
Another question arises in connection with this statement: what is the connection between Lavan and our going down to Mitzrayim? Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank answers, based on the Gemara (Shabbat 10b), that Bnei Yisrael went down to Egypt because of the jealousy felt by Yosef’s brothers over the favoritism Yaakov showed Yosef. The Gemara explains that Yaakov favored Yosef because he felt that Yosef was his firstborn, since he was the firstborn son of his favorite wife, Rachel. In fact, had Lavan not tricked Yaakov, Yosef would have been the Bechor and the brothers would not have been jealous of Yosef because he would have rightfully received the favoritism of Yaakov. Therefore, Lavan really did cause Yaakov and his family to go down to Mitzrayim, which led to 210 years of hard labor.
We should learn from this that any kind of hatred, especially baseless hatred, is very bad and can have disastrous ramifications. As we approach the Yamim Noraim this is one area in which we can try to improve in order that we be inscribed in the Sefer HaChayim.