At the conclusion of Parshas Vayeitzei, we read the story of Lavan and Yaakov. After spending 20 frustrating years of his life working for Lavan, Yaakov flees Haran with his family in search of a better life. Upon learning of Yaakov’s escape, Lavan follows in suit while accusing Yaakov of stealing his idols and animals. After having a peaceful exchange of words, the Torah ends the story using very interesting language. The Torah says, “V’yashav Lavan Limkomo.” “And Lavan went back to his place.” What does it mean that Lavan “went back”? Where was he? Why doesn’t the Torah simply say, “And Lavan returned to Haran”?
Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum of the Young Israel Shomrei Emunah in Silver Spring, Maryland offered some beautiful insight on this story. Rabbi Rosenbaum related that, throughout Lavan’s life he had been exposed to many important people. In his youth, he met Eliezer the servant of Avraham. He had grown up with Rivka and lived with Yaakov for twenty years. Nevertheless he continued along his dishonest path. This is what the Torah means when it says, “V’yashav Lavan Limkomo.” After spending a substantial amount of time with Yaakov and his family, Lavan simply went back to his regular lifestyle. He refused to introspect about the encounters that he had with Yaakov in order to better himself as person.
On the flipside, the Torah tells us that “V’Yaakov Holach lidarko” “Yaakov continued on his way.” Rabbi Rosenbaum explained that after Yaakov had spent nearly twenty years of his life living in the home of the wicked Lavan, he remained steadfast to maintain his religious observances and convictions. He refused to be swayed by the waywardness of his father-in law. It is for this reason that the Torah specifically chooses to use these terminologies of “V’yashav Lavan Limkomo.” and “Yaakov Holach Bidarko.”
In our lives we have many regular encounters with extraordinary people. The story of Yaakov and Lavan teaches us that instead of going about our daily lives with blinders on our eyes, we should try to take in all of these encounters, and learn from them. We must feel comfortable with who we are as people and religious Jews because only through this can we be leaders and “Holach Bidarko” like our forefather Yaakov.