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Parshas Vayeitzei

When Yaakov Avinu took his wives and children and ran away from the house of Lavan, his father-in-law chased after him. The meforshim learn a number of important lessons from the manner in which Yaakov conducted himself when he met Lavan.

Yaakov meant to lash out at Lavan for probing in his wives’ tents. In truth, he had every right to protest the intrusion into his family’s privacy. Instead, says R’ Mendel Rimanover zt”l, the pasuk says: מה ללבן ויאמר חטאתי ומה פשעי "- he (Yaakov) said to Lavan, ‘What was my sin, what was my misdeed?’” Rather than putting Lavan on the defensive by speaking harshly (vayidaber), Yaakov Avinu spoke softly (vayomer), using words that shifted the focus off of Lavan and onto himself. From Yaakov we learn an important lesson: The best way to defuse tension is through nonconfrontational words.

Later, we find another lesson in derech eretz. Yaakov and Lavan built a monument of stones as a witness to their treaty. The pasuk tells us that Yaakov spoke to “echav” – Rashi translates echav as his sons – and told them to gather stones for the monument. However, when it came time to sit down to a full feast, the pasuk writes: “ He called to his (echav) to eat bread.” This time, Rashi says that echav means Lavan’s entourage. What is the meaning of this discrepancy?

R’ Yechezkel of Kuzmir zt”l explains that the sons of Yaakov were the waiters at this meal. Yaakov taught his children that when guests come, the children should get up and help out, instead of sitting idly at the table and waiting to be served. Thus, the “echav” written regarding the meal cannot be referring to Yaakov’s children, since they were not eating. They were serving and allowing the others to partake.

We see one last lesson. As they parted ways, the pasuk follows through: לדרכו הלך ויעקב למקומו לבן וישב "- Lavan returned to his place and Yaakov went on his way.” The Meshech Chachmah, R’ Meir Simcha HaKohen zt”l, says that from here we see the difference between a tzaddik and a rasha. Yaakov was constantly “on his way” - always striving to elevate himself to higher levels of spirituality, whereas Lavan simply returned to his evil ways.

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