Commentary for Vayeira

7 Nov

At the very end of this week’s parshah, we learn of the descendents of Abraham’s only surviving brother, Nachor. Many of those listed are not particularly relevant to the story of the Jewish People, and thus no details are given about their children. Of Nachor’s eight sons, only two of them have their descendents mentioned. The first, Kemuel is identified as the father of Aram. Based on Kemuel’s name, which can be broken up into its parts to mean kam (rose up) El (God), the Rabbi determine him to be someone who rose up against the people of God, and thus his son, Aram, likely became the founder of one of the various kingdoms of Aram which caused trouble for the Israelites over the course of the next millennium.

The other son of Nachor who has any descendents mentioned is Betuel, who is identified as the father of Rebecca, who would go on to become of the foremothers of the Jewish People. Curiously, Betuel’s other child, his son Lavan is not listed, despite that fact that he would become a major player in the early history of the Jewish People, starting in next week’s parshah.

Rebecca, like Abraham, is known for her generosity. Indeed, it is this very trait that draws the attention of Abraham’s servant to her when he is sent to search for a bride for Isaac in next week’s parshah. Lavan, on the other hand, is known for his greed. He famously tricks Jacob by promising him Rachel’s hand in marriage, then slipping Leah underneath the weeding veil instead and telling Jacob that he must work for seven more years to marry Rachel. Even after Jacob has worked to marry Rachel, Lavan then forces him to stay around and tend his flocks in a very unfavorable contract. When Jacob and his family tried to leave, Lavan attempted to capture them and force them to come back, so that their wealth would be seen as part of his household. In the Haggadah, the Rabbis go so far as to theorize that this would have eventually led to the destruction of Judaism through assimilation into an idolatrous culture, but Lavan didn’t care about any of that. Just the appearance of being wealthier than he was (because Jacob’s property would still be Jacob’s) was enough reason for Lavan to ignore the wishes of his daughters and grandchildren. All Lavan cared about was his greed.

Suffice it to say that Rebecca and Lavan left behind very different legacies. By including Rebecca and not including Lavan in this list, the Torah is teaching us that one who is greedy might accumulate enough wealth to his or her family a few generations at most, but one who lives a life of generosity and kindness will leave behind a legacy that will be remembered for all time.

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