One of the signs of a COVID infection is a loss of smell and taste. Compared to other complications of disease this may be minor, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact. Possibly, only once we function without smell and taste, do we fully appreciate God’s blessing to us in providing us with food for our nutrition rather than a daily vitamin tablet. The variety, distinctions and diversity of our food add immeasurably to our pleasure in life.
Being unable to see distinctions in more important areas than smell and taste makes unhealthy moral decisions more likely.
Jacob’s father-in-law, Lavan, initially seems to be an innocuous Biblical character, yet, during the annual Passover Seder, Jews label him as more wicked than Pharaoh.
What is Lavan’s background? Abraham had two brothers, Nachor and Haran (Genesis 11:26).
Nachor had a son, Betuel (Genesis 22:22), who had two children, Rebecca and Lavan (Genesis 28:5).
As we first meet Lavan, he is usurping his father’s role. When Abraham’s servant, Eliezer arrives at Betuel’s house after meeting Rebecca at the well, it is Lavan who takes charge. He steps forward rather than allowing his father the prerogative of welcoming a guest into his home (Genesis 24:29-33).
Once again blurring his relationship with his father, Lavan takes the lead in authorizing his sister’s marriage.
And Lavan and Betuel answered and
they he said, “This matter is from God.”
Ancient Jewish wisdom stresses that Lavan is mentioned before his father indicating that he obnoxiously preceded him. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for “answered” is in the singular; VaYa’AN. We would have expected the plural, VaYa’ANU, since both son and father responded*. This grammatical hint informs us that Lavan rudely pushed his father aside and assumed full authority.
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In a later verse, even Jacob identifies Lavan as the son of Nachor, his grandfather rather than his father Betuel.
“Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?” They replied, “We know him.”
It seems that it was universally known that Lavan identified himself as interchangeable with his father.
Lavan also treats his children as interchangeable.
After agreeing to allow his daughter Rachel to marry her cousin Jacob, Lavan ruthlessly replaced her with her sister, Leah (Genesis 29:23).
Lavan also regards the property of others as interchangeable with his own, keeping the entire flock under his control, though Jacob unquestionably deserved compensation. Later, he reluctantly agrees to the separation as an alternative to losing Jacob’s outstanding services.
Finally, so committed is Lavan to the utter blurring of everything that he even considers God to be interchangeable with false deities.
Let the God of Abraham and the gods of Nachor judge between us…
With the stunning consistency that is the hallmark of God’s message to mankind, Lavan’s name perfectly captures his essential flaw. The Hebrew word lavan means white whose essence is made up of a mixture of all colors. Just as raindrops split ordinary white sunlight into its constituent rainbow colors, the reverse is also true; all colors combine to form white. Lavan suffers from moral color blindness.
Erasing the countless nuances of life can lead to great social peril and it is the foundation of Lavan’s wickedness. When your God isn’t special, when family roles aren’t special, and when other people’s property is indistinguishable from yours, life goes wrong. On a large scale, this type of thinking leads to socialism with all its destructive pathologies and the dull, drab, grayness which socialism always produces.
Studying the Torah through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom trains us to notice the nuances, spot the subtleties and dig beneath the surface. Our library packs provide hours of stimulating study via books, audio CDs and DVDs. As a holiday bonus, get a copy of America’s Real War for free along with your library pack before we increase the price to reflect the addition. These packs make wonderful gifts at this time of year and also provide a stepping stone to making next year one of growth in all areas of your life.
*In Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Bible: p. 66, 2nd line from the bottom, 3rd word from the left.
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with America’s Real War
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