Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Laban the Anti-Semite
"Go and learn what Laban the Aramean sought to do to our father Jacob. A Pharaoh made his decree only about the males whereas Laban sought to destroy everything." This passage from the Haggadah on Passover -- evidently based on this week's Torah portion -- is extraordinarily difficult to understand.
First, it is a commentary on the phrase in Deuteronomy, Arami oved avi. As the overwhelming majority of commentators point out, the meaning of this phrase is "my father was a wandering Aramean", a reference either to Jacob, who escaped to Aram [=Syria, a reference to Haran where Laban lived], or to Abraham, who left Aram in response to God's call to travel to the land of Canaan. It does not mean "an Aramean [=Laban] tried to destroy my father." Some commentators read it this way, but almost certainly they only do so because of this passage in the Haggadah.
A Double Gift
Isaac blesses his son Jacob: "... And may G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fat of the earth..." The famed commentator Rashi explains the implication of the words "And may G-d give you": "The Al-mighty will give, and give again."
What was missing in G-d's initial giving, that could be perfected and completed by a second giving? Man is finite, limited; should he give even a magnificent and generous gift to another, it can still be improved upon by additional giving. But even the initial "gift" of the omnipotent and perfect Creator would be perfect. What could be added by "giving again"?
An analogy from the education of a pupil by his teacher might clarify the problem:
The goal of creation is that this physical, practical world should become a dwelling for the Divine, a domain in which real human beings express holiness in their daily lives. Jewish teaching tells us that women and girls have special power and responsibility in this process. This week's Torah reading speaks of two special women: Sarah and Rebecca.
The traditional name of the reading is Chayei Sarah, "The Life of Sarah." Although she passes away at the very beginning of the reading, the name "Life of Sarah" indicates that in some sense she continues to live. Her body was buried in Hebron, but the effect of her goodness and holiness did not cease. She was equal with Abraham as founder of the Jewish people.