Jacob vs. Lavan – the Integrity of a Jew

In the Parsha of Vayeitzei we have the 20 year ordeal that Jacob faces in living with Lavan (Laban) as an employer and a father in law (always a bad combo). One of the most important lessons off the Parsha can be seen by stepping back and looking at the Parsha as a whole picture.

 

 

Jacob ends up in the house of Lavan. He agrees to work 7 years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Lavan tricks him and gives him Leah to marry. He allows him to marry Rachel, but only for another 7 years of free labor. After 14 years of working just to finally be married to the women that he wants, Yaakov tries to come to an agreement with Lavan on wages so he can earn some money. Over the next 6 years Lavan changes Yaakov’s wages 100 times! Every time Yaakov has success Lavan comes and says that the deal is a mistake! If they agree on spotted sheep being for Yaakov, as soon as spotted sheep start being born, Lavan comes and says he meant striped not spotted. And so on.

 

 

Lavan is one of those people who cannot stand to see others do well on his watch. He truly believes everything should go to him, always.

 

 

Now, let’s peak at Yaakov and see his greatness in the story. For 20 years Lavan has taken advantage of Yaakov. He has ripped him off, embarrassed him and taken advantage of him in every way possible. (In today’s world Lavan’s workers would have certainly unionized). Yet, when they finally have a confrontation at the end of the Parsha and Yaakov finally puts Lavan in his place; Yaakov is able to look Lavan in the eye and say the following (paraphrased):

 

 

Twenty years I worked for you and never gave less than 100% of my effort! Unpaid overtime, terrible weather conditions, day and night – I did it all! Damages and theft that I was not legally responsible for, I paid you back for those anyway. Yaakov gave the effort of someone working for his own business or at least the greatest and most generous boss. He never allows the way Lavan treats him affect the way he conducts himself. Yaakov teaches the Jewish people a critical lesson for all time:

 

 

A person’s integrity is based on who he is, not the circumstances he finds himself in! 

 

Yaakov shows us that at all times, I need to be the most honest and loyal worker / partner I can be. That my attitude needs to be to do what is right even when being wronged.

 

 

This does not mean that a person is required to take a job with an abusive situation. However, if you take the job and don’t leave, you need to put in your “honest days work” no matter what.

 

 

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