Verbal Agreement by Danny Shulman


The Midrash, in explaining the Pasuk of “Arami Oved Avi,” states that Lavan did worse for Klal Yisrael than Paroh did because he tried to destroy all of Bnai Yisrael, and not just the males.  The only source that indicates Lavan tried to destroy all of Bnai Yisrael is a Midrash that says that Lavan tried to poison Eliezer, however a Malach saved him.  This Midrash, though, is very difficult to understand. 

Rabbi Adler, quoting Rav Soloveitchik, explains the statement of “Arami Oved Avi” that says an episode that appears in Parshat Vayetze, Chapter 31.  Lavan confronts Yaakov about leaving his house suddenly with his daughters and not even saying goodbye.  After a brief argument they make a treaty and build a monument.  Yaakov calls this monument a “galaid” and a Lavan refers to it as “Yigar Sahaduta.”  Rashi explains that these words mean the same type of monument. 

However Rav Soloveitchik offers a different explanation.  He says the different names signify a subtle distinction between two different types of agreements.  One type of agreement is done to unify the parties for a common good and acceptance of each other, while the other is done to create a separation between the two.  For example, two countries would make the first type of agreement in a time of peace to ensure that the peace endures in order to help the two countries grow. On the other hand, the second type of agreement would be made to end a war in order that the two countries have a minimal lhisurhgoinldsvjlnnlnllevel of acceptance and coexistence.  Yaakov was making an agreement with Lavan to separate from him in a peaceful way of coexistence.  However, Lavan had different plan.  He wanted a completely unifying agreement, making the families of Lavan and Yaakov into one nation. 

The Ramban asserts that the Avot were not Shomrei Torah outside Eretz Yisrael.  Yet, Yaakov slaughtered the Korban he gave after making this agreement with Lavan.  Why would Yaakov slaughter the animal if he did not follow Halacha outside Eretz Yisrael?  The Ramban answers that Yaakov was really making a statement by slaughtering his Korban.  Kashrut is a distinction between Jews and Gentiles and is a preventive measure to ensure that the two societies do not intermingle excessively.  By slaughtering the animal, Yaakov, was demonstrating that the Brit with Lavan was only done as a preventive measure and done to separate the two nations.  Lavan wanted to unify them and combine their cultures, but Yaakov knew the danger of this.  The Midrash is teaching that had Yaakov united with Lavan and assimilated into his culture, there would be a certain destruction of Klal Yisrael.  Instead, Yaakov saved his nation from assimilation by demonstrating a distinction between himself and Lavan.

The Dynamic Trio by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

The Emotion of Yizkor by Rabbi Yosef Adler