Mendy Kaminker

Manipulative relative, rude boss: how Yaakov dealt with it

Do you have a manipulative relative who always tries to hurt you? This week’s Parsha is for you.

Do you have a rude and inconsiderate boss? This week’s Parsha is for you.

Do you feel stuck in life? This week’s Parsha is for you, too!

That’s because the Parsha tells us the story of Yaakov, who worked for his uncle Lavan – a rude and deceitful person.

At first, his uncle was friendly and welcomed him to the family business. But as soon as Yaakov was successful, Lavan became jealous and tried every possible tactic to make him fail.

So Yaakov had a manipulative relative and a horrible boss. I don’t think he felt stuck, but he has all the reasons in the world to feel that way.

Despite it all, Yaakov’s work ethic was impeccable. He stated that he worked diligently day and night to fulfill his job’s duty.

How did he do that? Where did he draw his inspiration from? What gave him the resilience to survive in such difficult situations?

The Midrash points out that Yaakov said specific prayers, which gave him the strength he needed. It was the famous “Shir Hamaalot,” fifteen Psalms, each beginning with “a song for ascents.”

Here is perhaps the most famous one of them:

“A song for ascents. I shall raise my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help is from the L-rd, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.

“Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The L-rd is your Guardian; the L-rd is your shadow; [He is] by your right hand. By day, the sun will not smite you, nor will the moon at night. The L-rd will guard you from all evil; He will guard your soul.

“The L-rd will guard your going out and your coming in from now and to eternity.”

Such powerful words! Even without any commentary, we can quickly see how reading these words can make us feel better and stronger.

But there’s more.

The Rebbe highlights the first verse of this Psalm, and with a closer look at the original Hebrew, we can find an even more powerful idea.

“From where will my help come?” The words “from where” are a translation of the Hebrew word “Me’ayin.” And, as is often the case in Hebrew, the term has another meaning: “from nothing” (Ayin = nothing).

So this verse can be translated as “My help will come from nothing.”

This word, says the Rebbe, reveals Yaakov’s secret. When he faced all the challenges, he recognized that overcoming them was not within his power. He didn’t have what it takes to win this battle; it was too big.

But Yaakov was connected to G-d, which gave him new abilities and powers. Not his, but G-d’s – and now he was unstoppable.

On a personal level, we all have challenges we are dealing with. On a global level, Am Yisrael is facing tremendous challenges: the situation in Israel and rising antisemitism everywhere.

When fear creeps in, we can read Psalm 121 and remember that our help is from the Maker of heaven and earth”. It’s not our limited powers, wisdom, or talents; our holy and kind G-d in Heaven is with us every step of the way.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of
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