Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Laban, Pharaoh and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee

There is a famous comment on last week's sedra, which I first saw in Rav Ovadiah Yosef's commentary on the Haggadah (Hazon Ovadiah), that goes like this:

The Haggadah asserts:
"Go forth and learn what Laban the Aramean wanted to do to our father Jacob. Pharaoh had issued a decree against the male children only, but Laban wanted to uproot everyone - as it is said: "The Aramean wished to destroy my father; and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation - great and mighty and numerous."

How did the author of the Haggadah know of Laban's intentions? The answer, says Rav Ovadiah, lies in Laban's speech to Jacob when the former caught up with him (Gen 31, 17-29):

Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon the camels; … to go to Isaac his father unto the land of Canaan. …And Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean, as he did not tell him that he fled. …and he rose up, and passed over the River, and set his face toward the mountain of Gilead. And it was told to Laban, on the third day, that Jacob had fled. And he …pursued and he overtook him in the mountain of Gilead.

And G-d came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night, and said unto him: 'Take heed to thyself that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.'

And Laban came up to Jacob. And Laban said to Jacob: 'What have you done, that you have outwitted me, and carried away my daughters as though captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly, and outwit me; and did not tell me, that I might have sent you away with mirth and with songs, with timbourine and with harp; and did not let me kiss my sons and my daughters? Now, you have acted foolishly. I have the power to hurt you; but the G-d of your father spoke to me last night, saying: Take heed of yourself that you speak not to Jacob either for good or evil.

Notice the shift in Laban's words. First, he plays lovey-dovey. He wanted to give Jacob and Co. a big send-off. Then, he turns on a dime and tells Jacob that he'd destroy him if God hadn't told him to keep his arms (so to speak) to himself.

It is this disarming two-facedness that the Haggadah found so dangerous. With Pharaoh, what you saw is what you got. He was an enemy who was out to destroy and enslave Israel. There were no illusions. He was the kind of enemy one would wish to have.

I was reminded of this today, when I read the demands of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee to de-Zionize Israel. They are demanding a Palestinian State and a Bi-National State. In other words, they want it all. Personally, I'm not outraged but glad. At least they're being straight. Just like Pharaoh.

The problem is that the Labans among us, (guess which tribal paper they write for?) have gotten to work to have us throw the Israeli Arabs a de-Judaize Isra'il/Isma'il party...

Laban wanted to uproot everyone...

1 comment:

barry said...

You know, you cited this a couple months ago --around Sukkot, I believe-- after a similar disconnect between what our "cousins" say and what they do...