Friday, December 01, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Vayetze (So dark the con of man)

Jacob has encountered his opposite in Esau, yes. Esau is a hunter, Jacob is a simple man who studies in his tent. Esau uses base instinct, Jacob uses his intellect, both to their radical extents. Jacob is a trickster, Esau is an idiot. It's a classic game of brains over brawn, the pen is mightier than the sword, and so forth. Jacob will always outsmart his dimwitted brother.

However, Jacob finds his foil in his Aramean uncle, Laban. Laban is a sort of Bizarro-Jacob. Laban is able to con Jacob, and as my synagogue's ritual director says on this topic, "A trickster doesn't like to be tricked". We all know the story about how Laban succeeds in tricking Jacob into marrying Leah and having to work for him for 20 years (7 years for Leah, 7 for Rachel, and 6 to gain a livelihood). But Midrash records this all to divine plan and that Jacob gets his comeuppance. Jacob plays a little three-card monty with Laban which Laban thinks he can't lose. He makes a deal during these last 6 years that he will only keep the speckled sheep (a rarity), and the pure colored (white, brown, black) sheep will remain with Laban. Huge litters of speckled sheep were born that year. Laban didn't want to lose a single sheep to his nephew/son-in-law and so made a new deal with Jacob: Jacob gets any striped sheep. This time Laban made sure that no white sheep mated with a black sheep, thus making striping impossible. Yet many of the sheep ended up striped. Fine, next year sheep with ring designs in their fur, impossible in nature. Laban still won't take any chances and therefore only gives Jacob sheep of one gender. Somehow, all of the next generation of sheep are ringed, speckled, and striped. Jacob ends up with all of Laban's wealth.

Unless anyone can think of a better one, the moral of this story is don't mess with the Jews, they're a tricky people. This is to make sure people are paying attention. Come up with a better moral, please.

Shabbat Shalom

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