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    Laban the Aramean – Tol’dot

    Jacob talks with Laban, Foster Bible Pictures 1897

    Jacob talks with Laban, Foster Bible Pictures 1897

    At the beginning of Parashat Ki Tavo (Deut. 26) there is a declaration to be made when an Israelite brings his first fruits to the kohen.

    The Israelite begins by encapsulating the history of the people until then. He explains why they went to Egypt and how God brought them out and led them to the Promised Land.

    The story opens with the words, Arami Oved Avi, “My father was a wandering Aramean” or (alternatively) “An Aramean sought to destroy my father”.

    The Aramean in this version is Laban, and it is in today’s sidra of Tol’dot that he is described in this way: “Rebekah was the daughter of Betu’el the Aramean and the sister of Laban the Aramean” (Gen. 25:19-20).

    It is possible that “Aramean” is to be understood geographically as a person from Aram.

    There is probably a “double entendre” here, since the root r-m-a means to deceive, and rama’i or Arami indicates a person known to be untrustworthy, a professional con-man.

    That’s what Laban was – a man (like his father Betu’el) who preferred deceit to decency.

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