Enemies in Disguise by Yakir Forman


When Yaakov is ready to leave his father-in-law Lavan’s house, he tells his wives, “Ro’eh Anochi Et Penei Avichen Ki Einenu Eilai KeTmol Shilshom VEilokei Avi Hayah Imadi,” “I have noticed that your father’s disposition is not toward me as in earlier days; and the God of my father was with me” (Bereishit 31:5).  What does the beginning of the Pasuk, speaking of Lavan no longer being a friend of Yaakov’s, have to with the end of the Pasuk, which speaks of Hashem appearing to Yaakov?

Rav Matis Blum, in his Sefer Torah LaDaat, gives one answer based on a Drash of the Pasuk “Hashem Li BeOzerai VaAni Ereh VeSone’ai,” “Hashem is with me by my helpers, and I will see my foes” (Tehillim 118:7).  The Midrash explains that one does not need any special help from Hashem to recognize certain people who hate him; normally, a person “sees his foes.”  However, there are several people who appear to be a person’s helpers.  Some of these are truly helpers while others actually intend to hurt that person.  To protect against these people that person needs special help from Hashem, which is why the Pasuk says “Hashem Li BeOzerai” – Hashem is with me, protecting me against those people who appear to be my helpers but are actually enemies in disguise.

In this light, Rav Blum answers the original question, and also explains a puzzling fact about this statement of Yaakov.  Lavan had always pretended he loved Yaakov, and had successfully tricked him in the past, most notoriously by marrying him to Leah instead of Rachel.  It does not seem that Lavan would, at this point, outwardly display his intentions to hurt Yaakov; however, Yaakov seems to say he did in his words, “Ro’eh Anochi Et Penei Avichen Ki Einenu Eilai KeTmol Shilshom,” “I have noticed that your father’s disposition is not toward me as in earlier days.”  Why does Lavan exhibit this sudden change?

Rav Blum explains that we can logically assume that, in fact, Lavan continued to pretend that he loved Yaakov and was an Ozeir, a helper.  However, Yaakov succeeded in recognizing his evil intentions because “Hashem Li BeOzerai” – Hashem had revealed them to him.  Thus, Yaakov’s second statement that “Elokei Avi Hayah Imadi,” “The God of my father was with me,” is an explanation of how he recognized Lavan’s behavior which he had mentioned in his first statement.

On Pesach, we briefly compare Lavan to Paroh, and conclude that Lavan was worse, because “Lavan Bikeish LaAkor Et HaKol,” “Lavan wanted to destroy everyone.”  This may be the Midrash’s way of saying that the most dangerous enemies of the Jewish people are not the seeable foes such as Paroh, but the enemies in disguise such as Lavan.  These enemies include not only people and external influences, but also the Yeitzer HaRa, which through its internal influences of desire tries to make us stumble.  We may not always get special revelations from Hashem like Yaakov did.  Instead, we must defend ourselves as well as we can from our enemies in disguise, and hope for secret help from Hashem in doing so.

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