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    Laban went home – Vayyishlach

    Jacob & Laban make a covenant, from the 1728 Figures de la Bible

    Jacob & Laban make a covenant, from the 1728 Figures de la Bible

    One of the questions that we ask after a story ends is, “What happened next?”

    Some novelists recognise the continuing interest of their readers and write sequels. In Judaism the gap is often filled by the Midrash.

    We hear a story about a compelling character and though the text has completed the story from its point of view, the Midrash comes to our aid with an idea of what followed.

    At the end of last week’s portion Jacob and Laban are more or less reconciled. They set up a monument which has a Hebrew name given by Jacob and an Aramaic name given by Laban. Next we hear, “And Jacob went on his way” (Gen. 32:2).

    Where Jacob went and what happened to him and his family remains crucial to the Biblical saga, and that’s where the Torah picks up the story this week.

    But what about Laban?

    He simply goes home. The high point of his partnership with Jacob has evaporated. Back he goes to the greed, gold and idolatry of his background.

    No longer is there anything interesting or historic to write about him. He has had his opportunity to remain part of the spiritual and cultural history of Israel and mankind, but it has all slipped through his fingers.

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