In this week’s parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah, Eliezer travels to Charan to find a wife for Yitzchak, the son of his master, Avraham. The Torah describes in great detail the tremendous siyata dishmaya that led Eliezer to finding Rivka and bringing her back to Eretz Yisrael.
While on his trip, Eliezer meets the rest of Rivka’s family, including her brother, Lavan. Lavan takes a more prominent role in later parshiyos when Yaakov goes to live with him; however, one aspect of Lavan’s character is shown immediately, starting from our parsha. Lavan was known as a liar and cheat; different examples show this to be overwhelmingly true, including most famously, his switching Rachel for Leah under Yaakov’s chuppah, as well as examples in this week’s parsha and other encounters with Yaakov. However, there is one pasuk in this week’s parsha that paints a slightly different picture.
“וּלְרִבְקָ֥ה אָ֖ח וּשְׁמ֣וֹ לָבָ֑ן” “Rivka had a brother whose name was Lavan.” (Bereishis 24:29). The Ohr HaChaim brings a medrash that explains that when a pasuk in the Torah introduces a tzaddik, it will write, “and his name was…”, but when talking about a rasha, the pasuk will write, “and…was his name.” So according to how our pasuk is written, Lavan was actually a tzaddik!
The Ohr HaChaim explains that by looking at the whole pasuk, we can understand what was actually happening here.
Immediately after he is introduced, the pasuk says that Lavan ran down to the well to meet Eliezer, and the beginning of the next pasuk says he saw the jewelry that Eliezer had given Rivka. Chazal explain that he ran down to see if Eliezer was going to hand out any more money; consistent behavior with our overall impression of him. However, if this was the case, shouldn’t the pasuk say that he first saw the jewelry and then ran down to meet Eliezer?
Explains the Ohr HaChaim, after coming home from the well, Rivka told Lavan all about this stranger who she was very excited about, but who Lavan saw was clearly making advances on his sister. This immediately brought up protective feelings in Lavan and he immediately raced down to the well to defend his sister from whomever this man may be, without even listening to a proper explanation! But after seeing the expensive jewelry that Eliezer had given Rivka, and listening to him speak, he understood that Eliezer had only the best intentions in mind and was actually paying his sister a huge honor by bringing her into the family of Avraham. At this point, all of Lavan’s suspicions were gone, and he began to plan to separate Eliezer from his money, once again slipping back into his natural state.
The Ohr HaChaim says that it was from this small act of running to defend his sister that Lavan merited having the Bnei Yisrael come from him. From his two daughters, Rachel and Leah (as well as Bilha and Zilpa according to one opinion) came the twelve tribes of Yisrael, meaning Lavan was the grandfather of the Jewish People!
While we hopefully will do more mitzvos and kind acts in our lifetime than Lavan did, it’s important to realize the power of a single act. It’s not as if Lavan did something crazy, he was simply following his instinct to protect his sister, and yet, Hashem rewarded him magnificently. You never know which act you do will be the one that affects you, your family, and the whole world for generations to come. Don’t waste the opportunity, this may be it.
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.
Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!