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    The crook from Aram

    "Arami oved avi" in the Haggadah

    The narrative of Rebekah’s marriage informs us more than once about her Aramean origins.

    “Isaac took Rebekah the daughter of B’tu’el the Aramean…, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife” (Gen. 25:19-20).

    Now there was a place called Aram and people from there were Arameans. But one wonders whether the Torah is merely giving is a geography lesson.

    Think for a moment about the statement in the Haggadah, Arami oved avi, which literally means, “My father was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5).

    Some of the sages thought the words meant, “An Aramean (Laban) wanted to destroy my father (Jacob)”, but this is rather difficult grammatically.

    The German Jewish commentator Benno Jacob had a different theory, that “Aramean” indicates a human type in the same way that “Canaanite” means a merchant and “Ishmaelite” is a caravan trader.

    What does “Aramean” connote according to Benno Jacob?

    A shepherd. “My father was a wandering Aramean” thus means, “My ancestor (Abraham?) was a nomadic shepherd”.

    Along the same lines, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin links “Aramean” with ramai, a deceiver, a point already made by Sforno on Gen. 31:20.

    The Aramean Laban, who was Rebekah’s brother and Jacob’s father-in-law, was certainly a deceitful man. Rebekah came from a family for whom honesty was not the best policy, and her son Jacob learned to his cost that Laban had made deceit into an art form.

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