By Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Vayishlach - - Honor and Suspicion
And Yaakov sent messengers in front of him to Aisov his brother to the land
of Seir to the field of Edom. And he commanded them saying; "So you shall
say to my master to Aisov; So says Yaakov your servant; I have lived with
Lavan and tarried till now and I have oxen and donkeys and sheep and
servants and maid servants and I am sending to my master to find grace in
your eyes. (Breishis 32:3-5)
Here is a multi-layered complex message that Yaakov needed to deliver in
order that his brother Aisov should spare him and his family’s future. Why
did he choose to tell Aisov that he has been by Lavan till now?
One of the major reasons Yaakov went into exile in the first place was to
learn how to deal with the "outside world". Ever since Aisov was deemed
unworthy of playing a "team game" with Yaakov and "rounding off the ticket"
by being the "public persona" while Yaakov would have ideally remained
devoted to the less gritty but no less rigorous scholar world of
scholarship, Yaakov now needed to go to get his masters degree in "the way
of the world".
He stepped out onto the rugged campus of Lavan University where his salary
and "the rules of the game" changed more frequently and arbitrarily than
winter weather. After twenty-two years of losing battles. Yaakov emerged
wholesome and even holy from that
This little speech is his brief but sophisticated valedictorian address.
How is that so? Part of the meaning of the message is "I have lived with
Lavan- "Im Lavan garti" is a declaration that he has never benefited from
the disputed blessing which is the source of Aisov's anger. "Garti" means
that "I have been living as a stranger” for so many years. You Aisov are
landed gentry. You have land and a house etc.
Rashi says that "garti," "I lived", is a reference to the 613 commandments
of the Torah, which is the numerical value of that word. Yaakov is sending
to his brother a subtle message that he is still the innocent and naïve
introverted scholar that he was when he left. I have been involved in
spiritual pursuits and I am therefore no threat, no competition to you,
Aisov. I only have cattle and sheep as if to understate his material
However the work "Zohar Niglah" explains that Yaakov is actually announcing
that he has successfully walked out of the mouth of a the lion. He wishes
to plant in the mind of Aisov a seed a doubt. How could he have survived
the crippling treachery of one of the world's most evil geniuses and emerge
not only unscathed but with wealth yet intact? Aisov would have to suspect
that Yaakov had successfully applied his studious mind to understanding and
mastering the artfully deceptive ways of Lavan and still remain honorable.
What is his secret ability to survive?
Yaakov was aiming with a few well-chosen words to both disarm his brother,
by posing as a non-threatening figure, and implying that he is also capable
of out-maneuvering the best of the best. The layers of meaning in his
terse message speak volumes about a graduated, Yaakov earning for himself a
healthy dose of honor and suspicion.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.