The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

L'Shem Shamayim

"ויהי בערב ויקח את־לאה בתו ויבא אותו אליו ויבא אליה"  
 "And it was in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to him; and he came to her"

Here is the famous story of how Yaakov worked for Lavan for seven years in order to marry Rachel his daughter but Lavan swaps Rachel for Leah, trickingYaakov into marrying her. Lavan is known for his trickery and deceit. The Midrash tells us how Leah tricked Yaakov into believing that she was Rachel. Such a wedding could surely be annulled yet after this, a time when anyone else would surely lose their temper, Yaakov agrees to continue working for Lavan for another fourteen years. Why was Yaakov so accepting of the lies he was fed from both Lavan and Leah?

The Etz Yosef says that Yaakov asked Leah how she could lie to him and not admit her father's deceit. She replies that she learnt the example from a Tzaddik- Yaakov himself - who also used deceit to impersonate his sibling, Esav before Yitzchak. Said Leah, just as you were told by your mother Rivka to be deceitful l'shem shamayim, so was I told to be deceitful by my father and I believe this to be l'shem shamayim. The Bereishit Raba says that Leah davened not to marry Esav. The Midrash points out the power of Leah's tefillot that she did marry Yaakov, thus confirming that the marriage was l'shem shamayim. therefore, Yaakov accepted the deceit from Leah. But Lavan, surely, had not tricked him l'shem shamayim, after all, we know that Lavan was an idolater.

One answer is as follows: At the time of the trickery, Yaakov managed to see the good in what had happened. R'Aharon Kotler said, Yaakov somehow knew that the person he had just married was spiritually destined for him. On this occasion, he let Lavan off, assuming that the decision was from Hashem, using Lavan as a shaliach. Lavan then says, after the week of Leah's wedding, you can have Rachel too.

Here too, Lavan was deceitful, only giving Rachel with the proviso that Yaakov would work another seven years. Here too, Yaakov remains quiet he thought, this too was the work of Hashem.

Many years later, eleven of the twelve shevatim have been born and Yaakov decides to leave Lavan's house quickly in his absence. Rachel seizes the opportunity to steal Lavan's idols. Lavan pursues Yaakov and upon catching him, he demands to search his family's possessions for his idols. Rachel had hidden them under the saddle of the camel which she sat on. She asked Lavan not to make her get up as she was pregnant and getting off a camel wouldn't have been so easy. Yaakov had worked for Lavan, never taking anything from his home. Yaakov's attribute was 'emet', truth and honesty so why would he ever take Lavan's idols? Yaakov assumed that Lavan was just pretending to look for his idols, deceiving Yaakov into letting him rummage through all his possessions to find anything taken from his home. At this, Yaakov can excuse Lavan's actions no more and says (31:37): When you rummaged through my things, what did you find of all your household objects?

After this act of deceit, Yaakov can no longer look positively upon Lavan and realises that he is a trickster. Yaakov therefore continues his rebuke adding (31:41): I served you these fourteen years for your two daughters. Yaakov also mentions other occasions when Lavan was less than honest. This shows that Yaakov did not rebuke Lavan when there was even the unlikely chance that it was l'shem shamayim. But, when it was clearly Lavan's trickery, Yaakov delivered the rebuke for all of Lavan's lies as he deserved.

By Ari Levy

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