(Torah Portion Vayaitzai ) Wedding Guests!
During the Passover Seder, while reciting the Hagaddah, we mention verses that refer to the historical background of our patriarchs. In reference to our forefather Yaacov, we state, “An Aramite wished to obliterate our father.”
Interestingly, the Aramite is not mentioned by name; and our Sages explain that it is referring to none other than Yaacov’s father-in-law, Lavan. In fact, “an Aramite” truly applies to Lavan for besides being the chief of the land of Aram, the word “Aramite” is related to the Hebrew word “Ramai” which means “a conniver”. To say that Lavan was a conniver is an understatement!
The Torah relates that when Yaacov came to town seeking a wife, he found Rachel. The terms that Lavan set, were that Yaacov would work for him seven years before marrying Rachel. When the terms of the agreement were met, Yaacov asked Lavan for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The verse then states that ‘Lavan gathered all the townspeople and made a feast.’
The verse appears to be out of sequence. First one prepares the feast and then he gathers the guests. The Medrash relates that since Lavan was planning on substituting his older daughter Leah in place of Rachel at the ceremony, he wanted the townspeople behind him so that they would not inform Yaacov about the switch. Therefore, he first gathered the people telling them that from the time Yaacov came to town there was ample water and he brought blessing for all of them. He explained that it would be in their best interest if he stayed there so that they would continue to be blessed. Lavan then told them of his plan to switch his bride with Leah so that he could demand that he work another seven years.
To ensure that the people would be loyal to his deceitful plan, Lavan instructed the people to bring their belongings to him as collateral. He then used their deposited security to buy food for the wedding meal.
Thus the verse tells us the actual order of events, first the people assembled and then he made the feast.
Although Lavan took these preventive measures, the people tried to warn Yaacov by singing a tune with the words, ‘Hee Lea – she is Leah’ But Yaacov in his sincerity, did not catch on.
Yaacov realized that his intended wife was switched and Lavan, after offering an excuse, allowed Yaacov to marry Rachel after a week if he would work an additional seven years. The Torah does not mention a feast when Yaacov married Rachel because Lavan had no ulterior motives for having people attend the wedding meal.
After living with Lavan twenty years and being cheated one hundred times, Yaacov, with G-d’s directive and the support of his wives, fled from Lavan with his family. When Lavan got word that Yaacov and his family had left, he chased after them intending to kill Yaacov. However, G-d appeared to Lavan the night before and warned him not to harm Yaacov and his family.
This is what we are referring to in the Hagadah when we say, “An Aramite wished to kill our father.”
The Book of Kings relates an incident concerning Naaman, a non-Jewish expert archer from the country of Aram – the descendents of Lavan.
Naaman was afflicted with Tzoraas – leprosy, an incurable illness. Elisha the Prophet, a student of Elijah the Prophet, instructed Naaman to immerse in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cured. At first Naaman mocked Elisha, but eventually he followed his advice and was miraculously cured; in fact his skin turned as soft as the skin of a baby. Naaman, enthralled by this miracle, gave up all his idols and proclaimed that Hashem – G-d – is the One and only.
Earlier, during a war against the kingdom of Yisrael, Naaman killed King Achav, a wicked Jewish king who had blasphemed G-d.
The Medrash explains that the Aramites were victorious over Achav and his army because their ancestor Lavan did a kindness for Yaacov, by preparing a wedding feast for him. G-d said, “Let the Aramites receive their reward in this world for their deed, rather than receiving it eternally in the World to Come.”
Although Lavan prepared the ‘kind and considerate’ feast for Yaacov’s marriage only with the ulterior motive of tricking him, nonetheless, G-d reckoned it as a gesture of kindness and rewarded his descendants for it.
It is beyond our comprehension to fathom the reward that we will receive or the reward in store for us in our eternal life for kindnesses we bestow on others with pure, caring, generous and sincere intentions while performed in a pleasant and respectful manner!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family