Clarity: Parshas Vayeitzei

This parsha contains two Aramaic words: yagar sahadusa.  These words were spoken by Lavan HaArami, the father in-law of Yaakov Avinu.  The Aramaic language is unique in the sense that it is a gateway between the Holy Tongue and all other languages.  It seems that Torah must pass through this gateway; it has never been directly translated in such a manner that the translation retained its actual meaning.

In Likutei Moharan 1:19,  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that Aramaic, or Lashon Targum, as it is also known, is conceptually related to the concept of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Aramaic functions as a conduit between the holy and the mundane.  The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is understood on a mystical level to mean an admixture of objective good and evil; eating of its fruit caused knowledge of both to meld together.  Man can no longer separate between the two; he now only has his subjective opinions about what is desirable and undesirable to guide him.

In a deep sense, our job in this world is to peel good and evil apart again, to discern one from the other, elevate the good, and destroy the evil.  This is one of the reasons why we lift the kiddush cup during kiddush.  There is an opinion that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the grape.  Wine, the product of the grape, has the ability to either expand the mind (when used in moderation) or to dismantle one’s human stature.  It can go either way, like Aramaic.  By lifting up the cup, we demonstrate that we have power over it and not the reverse.

Lavan is a very complex personality.  He is called “Lavan”, which means “white”, which would indicate straightforwardness and truthfulness.  Yet, he is also Lavan HaArami, the Aramean, the letters of which can be rearranged to mean “the liar”.  A person like this revels in lack of clarity, misunderstandings, unclear, cunning communication.  And don’t be fooled into thinking that we stand on the sidelines hissing at this bad guy–each one of us has this trait.  If we didn’t, the Torah would not spend so much time on Lavan.  He referred to the pile of stones designated as a mark of covenant between himself and Yaakov by the Aramaic term Yagar Sahadusa.  He made his oath in the name of the G-d of Avraham–seemingly to satisfy Yaakov Avinu and appear kosher.  Yet, he then adds “the god of Nachor” to the oath, indicating that he still placed his trust in the idol worshipped by Avraham Avinu’s forebears. And even if he didn’t, he needed the duality, the option to go this way or that.

But Yaakov Avinu only referred to the pile as Gal Eid, in the Holy Tongue, and would only make an oath in the name of the G-d of Yitzchak Avinu.  For Yaakov Avinu, who was the vehicle for G-d’s attribute of Emes (Truth), there was no other way but true and clear. He would accept no duality, even if it would cost him the opportunity to ingratiate himself to the other party, as diplomats do. And make no mistake, at the moment of this exchange, this was the highest level diplomatic negotiation taking place in the world, not between Carter and Brezhnev, but between two people representing the side of holiness and the sitra achra. This was the defining moment for Yaakov Avinu. And he would accept no duality. Because there is only One. Truth is singular.

I believe that life is also about clarifying, clarifying the good from the bad, making that which is unclear clear, and emerging with or at least moving towards a defined sense of meaning where there was previously an entropic mess, an existential vaccuum.  Our lives become healthier both spiritually and emotionally when the proper boundaries are in place, when we are able to tune in to the actual task that stands before us, and the context of our lives is truth.  When we accomplish this we are able to stand at the gateway where all opposites meet, and remain on the side of clarity and holiness, like Yaakov Avinu.

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2 thoughts on “Clarity: Parshas Vayeitzei

  1. Thanks for your comments about Laban and the Aramaic. When you say that Laban HaArami can be re-arranged to mean the liar, which Aramaic or Hebrew word were you thinking of? (shakran is usually Hebrew for liar).

    • rebtanchum says:

      Thanks for your question! Another word to use for “liar” in Hebrew is “rama’i”, which is actually more a propos for Lavan, as it implies falsifying through contradiction.

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