Ariella Cohen

Slyness Reincarnated

The weekly Torah portions these past several weeks have been so relevant to current events. It’s uncanny. But none (thus far) as much as this week’s. This week we are reintroduced to Lavan. Lavan is slyness in human form. This is one of his main character traits that we focus on because he’s the type of person who makes it seem likes he’s willing to work with you. But only until push comes to shove. Then he backs out and makes excuses about how his very clear words actually meant something totally different.

Doesn’t this sound eerily like Hamas? As I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of the news all day today regarding the ceasefire deal in exchange for the release of some of the hostages, I can not stop thinking about the parallels to Lavan and about how unlikely it is that Hamas will fully uphold their side of the deal. I know it’s more than unfair to compare anyone to Hamas because they’re not standard human beings, but I’m talking here about this one particular quality of slyness. Especially since “sly” is not the only adjective I would use to describe Hamas in general. In addition to a lot of other things, they are a reincarnation of the epitome of slyness.

Heading back to biblical times, Jacob and Lavan make an agreement. Jacob will work for seven years in exchange for receiving Lavan’s daughter Rachel as a wife. This is not exactly a fair trade in my personal opinion. Time back then was different, so I don’t know that we can compare seven years now to seven years then, but it still seems like an unequal exchange. But Jacob agrees because he really wants to marry Rachel. He’s willing to punish himself a bit if it will mean he ultimately wins gold.

Returning to the present day, Hamas wants a three to one exchange. Three known terrorists for one innocent civilian hostage. Not only that, but a temporary ceasefire. Fair exchange? I don’t think so. But Israel is desperate to get the hostages back, so we are “punishing” ourselves to get what we so badly desire. Not because it’s fair, but because we need our people back.

I’m not stating any political opinions here, but I think most rational people would think that both of these deals imply uneven exchanges. Whether or not they are necessary/the right thing to do. Even with the uneven exchange, Lavan still did not keep his side of the deal. He slyly gave his other daughter, Leah, to Jacob as a wife and made Jacob work for an additional seven years in order to finally get Rachel.

I don’t know enough about Lavan’s history to know whether or not he was always a sly person who didn’t keep his side of the deal. Maybe yes maybe not. But we know Hamas’ history quite well. They in fact regularly do not keep their side of the deal. They’ve broken ceasefire after ceasefire with Israel. Which makes me extra concerned about how they are going to go about holding to the deal (or not) to return the hostages.

Are they going to come up with some sort of trick to get Israel to release the terrorist prisoners but not actually give us back the hostages? Are they going to start shooting more rockets en masse once Israel stops firing? Or maybe they are actually concerned about their mortality and will hold up their side of this deal in attempt to make us think that they don’t actually need to be destroyed anymore? I don’t think they have the capacity to be concerned, so that likely won’t happen.

The news is constantly being updated about what exactly is supposed to be happening with this exchange/ceasefire, so I don’t think anyone really knows what is going to happen. Or even whether or not it will happen altogether. And even if we think we know, we don’t. We are able to see the story of Jacob and Lavan now in hindsight, but I’m sure Jacob wasn’t so sure how his story would end (including whether or not Rachel would be involved) after Lavan tricked him by giving him Leah.

We as a nation are now Jacob. Which is fitting since we are in fact called בני ישראל and are living in ארץ ישראל. We are dealing with an entity that is known to be sly. (We have that extra knowledge that Jacob might not have had.) We are good people dealing with people who don’t want what’s best for us. All we want is to connect with our loved ones who we currently don’t have access to, but we are being hindered by this evil entity who is preventing us from having it for no good reason.

We don’t know what will happen next. We don’t know whether our current day Lavan will uphold their side of this particular deal. We don’t have any way to actually know if we will get to “marry Rachel.” But we can certainly confidently hold onto the fact that with all of the other parallels in this week’s parsha, the aspect of a happy ending is more than likely. Pretty much guaranteed. We just don’t know how long or how hard that journey to the end will be.

Dear God, just as Jacob ultimately prevails over Lavan and achieved his elusive dream of marrying Rachel, we are very ready for the day when our modern day version of this story will end with the fulfillment of the collective Jewish dream: living safely in our homes with our enemies nowhere to be found. ושבו בנים לגבולם. Soldiers, hostages, and anyone else who is not home where they belong.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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