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    Laban & my father – Ki Tavo

    Bringing the first fruits to the kohen, an Israelite had to make a declaration which went back in history (Deut. 26:5-10). It said, Arami oved avi – “My father was a wandering Aramean”.

    According to rabbinic commentary, as presented by Rashi and other exegetes, the words had a different significance, “An Aramean sought to destroy my father”.

    The Aramean was Laban: the father was Jacob.

    Historically it is quite true that Laban was hostile to Jacob, but was this such an exceptional hatred that warranted later generations recalling it when they brought the first fruits?

    And shouldn’t we say in regard to Laban, “No harm done”, since Laban’s evil designs met with no success?

    The explanation might rest in the method employed by Laban. He was a manipulator who twisted words an situations in order to undermine the stability of his intended victim. No one was safe if he was around. His disposition to deceit meant that – in the rabbinic phrase – his “yes” was not a “yes” and his “no” was not a “no”.

    By means of a miracle, God saved Jacob from Laban’s designs and made it possible for the people of Israel to flourish, enter their land and make the soil fruitful.

    No wonder the descendants of Jacob had a great deal to thank God for.

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