SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, November 18, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg
            In the final verses of Parashat Vayeitzei, we read of the tense exchange between Yaakov and Lavan after Yaakov secretly left with his family from Lavan’s home, an exchange which ended in a truce and a peaceful departure.  The Torah concludes by telling that Lavan blessed his daughters and grandchildren (Yaakov’s wives and children) and then returned home.
            Seforno offers a meaningful explanation for why the Torah found it necessary to inform us that Lavan blessed his daughters and grandchildren.  He writes that the Torah sought to instruct that a parent’s sincere prayer for his or her children is significant, and is worthy of being answered “due to the power of the divine image of the one granting the blessing.”  Seforno’s intent, seemingly, is that although Lavan was an evil person, nevertheless, his sincere prayers had value.  Even Lavan was created in the divine image, and so he, like all people, had vast spiritual potential.  As such, his sincere prayers were significant and impactful.  Despite all the evil he committed, his genuine, heartfelt blessings to his children and grandchildren were meaningful and worthy of having a positive effect upon them.
            The Mishna in Avot (4:3) famously warns, “Do not be scornful towards any person…for there is no person who does not have a moment…”  We are taught never to deny any person’s potential for greatness, his or her ability to achieve.  Even if a person strikes us as unimpressive, or even evil, we are bidden to recognize the divine image with which that individual is endowed, and trust in his or her capacity for greatness.  As corrupt and sinful as Lavan was, he felt genuine love for his children and grandchildren, and he blessed them with all his heart.  As pedestrian as this act might at first appear, the Torah, according to Seforno’s understanding, wanted us to appreciate the value and significance of Lavan’s blessing, in order to teach us to look for and respect the fine qualities of all people.  Although there might not be much about Lavan to admire, the Torah wanted to draw our attention to one positive act he performed, something noble which he did and which originated from a place of sincere goodness deep within him, to teach us that such a place exists within all people, and that it is our job to find it, even when it cannot easily be seen.