Torah Portion: Shabbat: Va’Yetze
We find Jacob fleeing for his life from his brother Esau’s wrath, because Jacob had deceived Esau of his birthright and stolen his brother’s blessing.
Both Isaac and Rebecca urge Jacob to run to Paddan-Aram, to the house of Bethuel, Rebecca’s father, and to take a wife from there of the daughters of Laban, Rebecca’s brother.
It could very well be that both Rebecca and Isaac are determined to wean their son, Jacob, from his propensity of deceiving others, by sending him to live with his exceedingly unprincipled uncle. The would-be “innocent” Jacob is no match for his wily Uncle Laban, who literally “fleeces” poor Jacob.
Immediately upon his arrival at his uncle’s home, Laban exploits Jacob, making him work for several weeks before offering him the possibility of compensation. Jacob then offers to work for Laban for seven years for the hand of Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel. Ruthless Laban, however, at the last moment, switches his daughters and gives Jacob his daughter Leah instead. In this manner, Laban forces Jacob to work an extra seven years for Rachel.
Finally, when Laban attempts to spell out what Jacob’s compensation will be as a married man, Laban deceives Jacob by removing all the healthy, white sheep and the strong goats, so that Jacob’s compensation would be only the weak and spotted animals.
God is with Jacob, and the weak animals give birth to the healthy animals while the inferior ones go to Laban.
After 20 years of abuse, a desperate Jacob finally calls both his wives, Rachel and Leah, into the field for a consultation and says (Genesis 31:5-6): רֹאֶה אָנֹכִי אֶת פְּנֵי אֲבִיכֶן כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ אֵלַי כִּתְמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם, וֵאלֹהֵי אָבִי הָיָה עִמָּדִי. וְאַתֵּנָה יְדַעְתֶּן, כִּי בְּכָל כֹּחִי עָבַדְתִּי אֶת אֲבִיכֶן “I have noticed that your father’s disposition is not toward me as in earlier days; but the God of my father was with me. Now you have known that it was with all my might that I served your father, yet your father mocked me and changed my wage a hundred times. But God did not permit him to harm me.”
Both Rachel and Leah agree that Laban has not treated their husband or their family fairly. In fact, they accuse their father, Laban, of treating his own daughters and grandchildren as strangers, and of stealing their wherewithal.
It was then, that Jacob arose, took his wives and children, and led them away from Laban to begin the long trek to his father Isaac’s house, in the land of Canaan.
Eventually, Laban hears of Jacob’s departure, chases after him, and a major confrontation takes place. Laban wants to harm Jacob, but God prevents him from doing so. Eventually, they parate, each going to their own land.
Maimonides states that an employee must behave in an ethical manner, a worker who was hired to work during the day, is not permitted to do the work at night and rent him-self out during the day to perform another job. Shabbat Shalom