Today Depends on Tomorrow
The story of our father Yaakov, as portrayed in this week's parsha, is
certainly the harbinger of all of the Jewish story in the long centuries of
our exile and dispersion. Yaakov arrives penniless and persecuted - a
survivor from the ravages of the enmity and sword of Eisav. He is subjected
to further humiliation and discrimination in the house of his erstwhile
father-in-law and employer Lavan who exploits his talents and labor to the
In spite of this unfair treatment, Yaakov prospers and builds a family and
future for himself. Yaakov's success in the face of overwhelmingly negative
circumstances only enrages Lavan and his sons and Yaakov is eventually
forced to flee and return to the Land of Israel. Here, he will again
encounter enmity and great challenges to the survival of his family and himself.
Through all of this tumult and danger Yaakov perseveres and succeeds in
building a family that will develop into an eternal and holy nation .And
this is pretty much the story of the Jewish people over its over three
millennia of existence. No other people or group of immigrants has ever done
so much for its host nation as have the Jews. Yet, in the main,their efforts
and achievements have been unrewarded if not even resented.
This phenomenon of ingratitude is Lavan’s inheritance bequeathed in full
measure to the non-Jewish world generally. The Jew may be elevated,
exploited, rewarded or persecuted but rarely if ever is he truly
appreciated. The world has a mental block against truly appreciating the
role of the Jew in the progress of civilization. And in our current world,
that mental block has been extended to focus mainly on the Jewish state of
The secret of Yaakov's ability to overcome Lavan, and to succeed in
preserving the heritage of Avaraham and Yitzchak, lies in his constant
recollection of the great dream that he dreamt at the beginning of his
sojourn in exile. God's presence in the house of Yaakov was a palpable one.
He always felt God's presence over him and thus his vision of the long game
that he was to play triumphed over the near sighted short game that Lavan
always played. Yaakov, who is aware and confident in God's promise that "I
will be with you," realizes that reversals and even tragedies are still only
temporary events in the march of Jewish history.
It is the constant recollection of his great vision and dream that fuels
Yaakov's strength and sense of purpose. Lavan's vision from Heaven is merely
a warning not to further harm Yaakov. But he lacks grander visions - no
ladders that can ascend heavenward and no sense of eternity. In this respect
Lavan and Eisav resemble each other acutely. They are all about "now" - the
additional pot of lentils and labor that can be squeezed out of the weak and
defenseless with no thought about the ultimate future and the consequences
of their behavior. Yaakov states that "tomorrow I will come into my reward"
- Jews are concerned about their ultimate tomorrow and not just their today.
He who is concerned about tomorrow is also successful today.
Rabbi Berel Wein