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vayetze- lavan the destroyer

That not only one has risen against us, to destroy us, but in every generation they rise up to destroy us, but The Holy One, Blessed Be He, saves us from their hands. Come and learn what Lavan the Aramean wanted to do to our father Yaakov–for Pharaoh decreed only against the male [newborns] while Lavan wanted to uproot everything.” (The Pesach Haggadah)

 

Nowhere in the story of Yaakov’s encounters with Lavan related in this week’s Parsha is there any intimation that Lavan wished to uproot Yaakov.  He cheated him. He thought that what Yaakov had achieved belonged to him. He was jealous of Yaakov’s success, but we do not read in the text of the narrative of their relationship specifically that “Lavan wanted to uproot everything”.  Furthermore, having said that Lavan wished to do so, why then does the Baal Haggadah underestimate Pharaoh’s villainy by minimizing the wickedness of his decree which was: “only against the newborn males”?

It seems odd that, on the Seder night, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt and Pharaoh’s tyranny, the Baal Haggadah downplays the evil of the Egyptian king.   On the contrary, on this night which is set aside for relating Hashem’s miracles bringing about the release of our forefathers, we should emphasize how terrible conditions in Egypt were!

 

The key to understanding the meanings of the Baal Haggadah are the words that introduce the paragraph about Lavan. This paragraph is introduced by the key words Zei Ulemad  -“Go and study”, delve deeply in order to understand the aforementioned statement that in every generation the nations rise up to destroy us. Study and understand that there is no clear statement in the Torah that Lavan wanted to destroy the fledgling Jewish People. All we know from the text, is that he was jealous of Yaakov’s success. He thought that Yaacov had become wealthy at his expense and that what Yaacov had acquired rightfully belonged to Lavan.   Yet, we accept our Sages’ assertion that Lavan really did want to uproot everything. So, too, throughout the history of the Jewish people who have been sojourners in many countries that received them benignly but ultimately the relationships turned sour, usually under the complaint that “the Jews have taken what belongs to us”. However, the true intent is the destruction of the Jewish people.  “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us.” In each generation the destroyers do not give away their true intentions. However, with the wisdom of hindsight, we see that all too often, it has been true from our earliest sojourn in the house of Lavan that the complaints against the Jewish People are a cover for their wish to destroy us.  The Baal Haggadah does not exaggerate and he demonstrates this by comparing Pharaoh favorably to Lavan–for Pharaoh decreed only against the male [newborns] while Lavan wanted to uproot everything.”

 

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