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Then Lavan said to him (Yaakov), nevertheless, you are my bone and my flesh and he stayed with him for one month (Bereishis 29:14).
Prashas Vayeitzei elaborates the evil deeds and plans of Lavan. In the Hagadah Chazal clearly identify Lavan as an extremely evil man. We read there that Lavan wished to completely uproot the Jewish People. Chazal base this on the posuk arami oved avi (Devarim 26:5), which is loosely translated as, an arami attempted to destroy our forefather. Chazal identify the arami as none other than Lavan.
Chazal teach us that there are two types of sinners. The first type is one who sins because of uncontrollable desires. He is overwhelmed by his passions and stumbles in sin. The second type of sinner is one who sins deliberately. The first type of sinner is not nearly as bad as the second one. The first only sins due to a lack of discipline whereas the second sins in spite. If we look at the actions of Lavan they do not clearly indicate as to what type of sinner he was. Perhaps, one can make a case that Lavan only acted sinfully due to his uncontrollable desires. Lavan had a great desire for wealth and perhaps that is what guided his actions. Even the evil act of switching Leah for Rachel can be attributed to his acting in his own best interest. He simply wished to marry off his older daughter before the younger. Where then do we see the extreme evil of Lavan for which he deserved the description of one who wished to annihilate the Jewish people?
After meeting Yaakov for the first time Lavan secretly inspected Yaakovs materiel goods. After realizing that Yaakov had not a penny to his name Lavan said, Nevertheless, you are my bone and flesh. The word the Torah uses for nevertheless is ach The commentators explain this word literally means but and are perplexed as to why the Torah chose this word to convey the implied meaning of nevertheless.
In parshas Noach the posuk says Only Noach survived and those that were him in the ark (Bereishis 7:23). The word the Torah uses for only is the same ach found here. There, Chazal teach us that the word ach may homiletically be interpreted as meaning to cough. The commentators explain that this interpretation is derived from the fact the word ach phonetically has the actual sound of one coughing and spitting up. The posuk is thus interpreted as saying that Noach coughed and spit up blood due to the difficulties and pain he incurred while caring for the animals.
Perhaps we may homiletically interpret the words of Lavan in this fashion as well. The first type of sinner mentioned above would be proud to be related to a great holy man like Yaakov regardless of his financial status. Although he himself may have stumbled in sin this does not reflect his true essence. Deep down this sinner also wishes to be righteous. It is only due to his personal weakness that he fails to overcome his evil inclination. However, here the very first thing Lavan said to Yaakov was ach. This may homiletically be interpreted as meaning that Lavan was deeply disturbed with the fact that he was related to a poor talmud chacham. He moaned, coughed and spit up blood over his tragic fate. The only thing that Lavan valued was wealth. Righteousness and spiritual accomplishments were not only worthless but a severe liability.
It is noteworthy that in addition to the above posuk of Lavan described Yaakov as a relative of bone and flesh we also find a similar expression regarding Adam and Chava. The posuk says and Adam said (concerning Chava), this time it is a bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (Bereishis 2:23). Indeed, here it was true in its literal sense in that Chava was created from Adams actual bone and flesh. We may ask why did Adam preface his words with the expression this time, what other time was he alluding to that was different.
Perhaps we may suggest that Adam foresaw that one day there would be a Lavan who would embrace Yaakov with this similar expression. Adam realized that for Lavan it was a great tragedy to have a religious relative like Yaakov. Adam wish to disassociate himself from that position by stating that it is only this time that he has met a true relative. The posuk goes on to say that Adam cleaved to his wife unlike Lavan who wished to distance himself. Thus Adam was implying that although Lavan said he was of the same bone and flesh as Yaakov his words and actions indicated otherwise.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001