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November 15, 2002 - Image 62

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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Torah Portion

Why Was Yaakov So Ethical
With Devious Father-In-Law?

search only to find nothing. (Rachel
was sitting on the evidence, literally.)
After keeping quiet for so many
years, Yaakov finally lets Laban have
it: "These 20 years I have been with
you, your goats never miscarried, nor
did I eat rams of your flock. That
he Reuters news service
which was mangled I never brought
recently reported that
you — I myself would bear the loss ...
Worldcom would "restate"
by day scorching heat consumed me
more than $9 billion in
and frost by night ... and you changed
earnings since 1999.
my wage a hundred times."
Let me translate that for you into
If Laban really is such a dirty rat,
English: This week, Worldcom
swindling Yaakov at every turn, why
announced that when it admitted ear-
doesn't Yaakov eat the occa-
lier to lying and stealing
sional sheep? Why does he
from the American public —
continue to work so hard
it was also lying. The compa-
knowing that his boss treats
ny didn't really steal and
him so miserably?
cheat $7 billion, as it previ-
Yaakov explains, "Had
ously stated. It stole $9 bil-
not the God of my father
— the God of Abraham
I hope that clarifies things
and of Yitzchak (Isaac) —
for you.
been with me, you surely
Even more shocking is the
would have sent me away
American public's reaction to
empty-handed." On the
this announcement — or a
surface, Yaakov tells Laban
lack of one. "Worldcom stole
that his newfound prosperi-
$2 billion more than we
flows not from his fraud-
Special to the
thought? Ho hum. Big deal."
father-in-law, but
Jewish News
We have fallen so deep
from God.
into an ethical morass that
On a deeper level,
we no longer consider dishonesty
Yaakov tells each of us that he main-
aberrant behavior. It's par for the
tained his high ethical standard not
course. The question we face is: How
out of deference to Laban. Rather, his
has this attitude affected each of us?
diligence with Laban's money comes
The story of this week's Torah por-
out of an understanding that God
tion contrasts the actions and mind-
demands ethical behavior, even and
sets of our forefather Yaakov (Jacob)
especially in the most trying and diffi-
with those of his father-in-lav, Laban.
cult situations.
Forced to flee from his fanatical
It's easy to produce honest account-
fraternal twin, Yaakov finds himself
ing reports when the numbers are
homeless and penniless, yet smitten
good. Stockholders are happy; every-
with his cousin Rachel. He immedi-
one makes money, and the CEO
ately agrees to work seven years to
keeps his job. Yet, the executives of
earn her hand in marriage. Laban
Worldcom learned the hard way that
rewards his hard work with fakery,
that same honesty becomes much
switching Leah for Rachel and forcing
more difficult in tough times. When
Yaakov into another seven-year con-
the chips are down, fraud becomes
the easier road to travel.
Twenty years later, Yaakov wants to
Yaakov achieves his greatness by
go home and asks Laban to finally pay
rising to his challenge and staying true
him for his years of dedication that
to his values even in the most trying
built Laban into a wealthy and pros-
of times. What each of us must ask
perous businessman. "Just give me the
ourselves is: What would I do if it
speckled or spotted lambs, the brown
were I? ❑
sheep and the spotted goats."
Laban's answer? "No problem." It
is no problem because before Yaakov
has a chance to take his sheep, Laban
steals them from under his nose.
As they're leaving for home, Rachel
Why does Rachel take her father's
takes her father's idols. Incensed;
idols? Do you think that she does
Laban chases them down, demands
the right thing? Is there ever an
his idols and conducts a tent-to-tent
appropriate way to change a par-
ent's bad behavior?

Shabbat Vayetze:
Genesis 28:10-32:3;
Hosea 12:13-14:10.

Here & Now:

Listening to the Past - Planning the Future

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