Shabbat Vayetzey

Candles Friday 4.12pm
Havdalah 5.15pm

Last week we read about what looked like Jacob taking advantage of Esav when he exchanged soup for the birthright. And then Jacob and his mother deceive Isaac in order to receive Isaac’s blessing even though God had already promised it to Jacob.

This has often created difficulties for the commentators and one of the main responses is that in this week’s reading we see Jacob being deceived himself when Laban “misleads” him over whether he was to marry Leah or Rachel. There is a principle in the Talmud “The way one treats people is the way you will be treated back.” But that cuts both ways.

Whatever way one may be inclined to criticize Jacob, the measure of a great leader is his ability to deal with his opponents in the appropriate way even if it might not have been the way he personally would have chosen to act.

The truth is that Esav did not care about his birthright. Even so he would never have accepted that Jacob was a more God fearing person. Indeed he claims wrongly that Jacob stole it. When he did not. It was the blessing he gained by devious means. Even so Isaac refused to retract it when he discovered it was Jacob he had given it to, not Esav.

Yet Jacob pays Laban back for his deception and the cycle continues. In the end Jacob breaks that cycle when he returns home and makes peace with Esav. In the end Jacob gained nothing materially and Esav inherited all his father’s property. So clearly he was not out to gain financially.

There are two conclusions. One is that if you are dealing with dishonest people always be on your guard and you may need to deal differently to the way you normally do. The other is that one can always make amends. It’s never too late to change.