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Religion

The Arameans are still trying to destroy us!

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Rabbi Dr David Nossel

Moses then informs the people of a most dramatic ceremony to celebrate their arrival, and the arrival of the first fruit. A person is to bring a basket containing the fruits to the Temple, and present it to the priest. Then, at the height of the proceedings, he is to make a declaration of thanks to G-d.

The Torah provides the divine text of that declaration. It starts off as follows: “And you shall respond and say before the Lord your G-d: ‘An Aramean seeks to destroy my father’…” (Deuteronomy 26:4-5).

What a let-down! One would expect the opening words of the proclamation to be impactful and stirring. Instead they are cryptic and confusing – a note about a vengeful Aramean! If the purpose of the introductory words of the proclamation was to recall the historical background to the arrival of the Jewish people in Israel, it could have said it directly, “Lavan [the Aramean] tried to destroy Jacob, but thankfully he failed…”

Instead, the proclamation makes mention of “an Aramean” instead of Lavan, it uses the word “seeks” in the present tense instead of the past, and it uses the term “my father” instead of Jacob. Why?

Rashi’s commentary says that Lavan was trying to destroy Jacob by undermining that which Jacob stood for and that which we, his descendants, are all about: the kindness of the Omnipresent.

There are two possible approaches to how the world should be run. The first is the approach of justice. This approach seeks to uphold the law, ensure fairness and integrity, and safeguard the sustainability and maintenance of the world. Lavan represented this approach. But as high as the Arameans, their Aramaic language, and their approach to the maintenance of the world are, they fall short of the approach of the Jewish people.

There is a second approach to how the world should run. It is one of kindness. It is higher than the first earthly, man-made approach, for it comes from Heaven. It seeks to give to the world, to improve it, and ultimately perfect it.

The Aramean mindset of basing our world on justice instead of on kindness seeks to remove us from our mission in the world, not just in the time of Lavan. It seeks to destroy us up to this very day.

Therefore, the Torah tells us what we need to do when we eventually return to our land, farm it, and gather its first fruits. We need to come before G-d, and declare that we have not forgotten our mission. We must declare our recognition of the kindness of the Omnipresent, to dedicate ourselves to emulating His kindness, and to give those first fruits to others.

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