Off Those Laurels! by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein


At the very end of this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, “Vayashov Lavan LiMkomo.  VeYaakov Halach LeDarko, Vayifge’u Vo Malachei Elokim,” “And Lavan returned to his place.  And Yaakov went on his way, and angels of Hashem approached him” (32:1-2).  The Meshech Chochmah comments that the Torah is calling our attention to a major difference between Lavan and Yaakov.  After all of the years that Lavan spent with Yaakov the Tzadik, he was totally unchanged.  “He returned to his place.”  He went right back to his former level of corruption and deceit.  He had not allowed Yaakov’s character to affect or inspire him at all.

Yaakov, on the other hand, “went on his way.”  Tzadikim are never complacent with their achievements, but rather are always looking for the next opportunity for growth.  When one actively seeks out positive experiences, he finds them and can use them as opportunities for growth and personal development.  In Yaakov’s case, he went and encountered Malachei Hashem.

As we go through life, we are faced with a defining choice.  Are we looking at life from the perspective of Yaakov or Lavan?  Are we set in our ways?  Are we satisfied with our level of observance and our relationship with Hashem, or are we on a path of spiritual growth?

As Shlomo HaMelech expresses in Kohelet, “BaBoker Zera Et Zarecha, VeLaErev Al Tanach Yadecha,” “In the morning, sow your seed, and in the evening do not rest your hand” (11:6).  We cannot rest on our previous accomplishments; rather, we must constantly keep seeking new opportunities.  We must incorporate the understanding that each day, each encounter, every class and lecture, all contain within them the opportunity to be inspired, motivated, and achieve even loftier heights.


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