These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on December 1, 2011 by Barer

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This week’s parsha presents a number of fascinating narratives, as it deals with the major portion of Yaakov’s adult life prior to his children taking center stage in the narrative.  On the cursory reading that time allows me, the interactions between Yaakov and his father-in-law (and uncle) Lavan are extremely hard to follow.  It may be in light of this that the text surprises us in its disjointedness.  While there are many asides thrown into the narrative that is Bereishit, few passages stand out to me in the same way as the beginning of chapter 31 for just how disjointed the narrative is.  Each of the first four verses talks about a separate aspect of the story at hand!  31:1 tells us that it has become known (presumably to Yaakov) that he is considered a thief in the eyes of Lavan’s household.  31:2 explains how Yaakov sees the face of Lavan, and “behold, he [Lavan] is no longer with him [Yaakov] like he was in days past” (my translation).  31:3 gives the reader a one-line command from Hashem telling Yaakov to leave Lavan and return to his homeland.  Finally, 31:4 relates that Yaakov sends for his wives.  The story that follows, of deception. stealing, and pursuing, all seems to be in lieu of the main characters having a face-to-face conversation.  While 31:2 is ostensibly about Yaakov seeing Lavan, the wording makes it sound like the seeing is not literal, and no dialogue is recorded.  Even Hashem seems to be supporting the idea of fleeing instead of reconciling with one’s own family.  While peace (of a sort) is achieved at the end of the story, Lavan is not heard from again, and given his visible distress over being separated from the family his daughters are creating, I think it is clear that a great loss is felt as a result of a lack of communication in this story.

Why don’t we sit down

Talk things over, you and I

Rather than running?