Manipulative Love

The Baal Haturim points out that Lavan is known as לבן הארמי, simply translated as Lavan the Aramean. But if we take the word ארמי, and change around its letters, we get the word רמאי, meaning, cheater. There is a great deal to be learned about a scoundrel like Lavan. It is no coincidence that לבן, means white. This would imply someone who is honest, sincere, and clean. Lavan was none of these.

Elsewhere in the Torah, we praise Balak, King of Moav. Although he wished to destroy the Jews, he did not cover up his intentions, and where he stood. Even though he was truthful in a negative way, he was still truthful. Lavan, on the other hand, concealed his real feelings, and pretended to care. He wanted his family to believe that he was a loving father and grandfather. It was only after Hashem’s intervention, that he backed off, and went his separate way. He later admitted that he wanted to kill Yakov. Rivka had grown up in a house of lies and deception. She could not easily be fooled. This is why she was on to Eisav’s fake piety. Yitzchak was more gullible, as it was hard for him to believe that this kind of evil could exist.

It is very troubling to see parents manipulate their children, by claiming that they are only making their requests because they “love” their child. The innocent child assumes that the parents are telling the truth, and if they are loved, they should follow what they are told. Obviously, there are good, sincere, and loving parents. But, too often, there are also families that use the “love” ticket to give bad advice and really harm their own children.

The Lavan episode, serves as a warning to us, to look at a person’s actions, and not his words, to see if he genuinely cares, and wants what is best for you. The worst scenario is when this so called, love, leads to a damaging and controlling relationship. Such a manipulative relationship, far more resembles Lavan, than one of true love.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at