Haftorah: Yaakov Fled to the Field of Aram
הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר
This week's Haftorah opens with the prophecy of Hoshea: "Yaakov fled to the field of Aram; Yisrael worked for a wife, and for a wife he guarded [sheep]." (Hoshea 12:13) Opening the Haftorah with this pasuk comes, apparently, to highlight the connection between the Haftorah and the Parsha, which also begins with Yaakov's fleeing to Aram. However, within the context of Hoshea's prophecy, beginning the Haftorah with this pasuk is not understood, because it is very hard to explain the pasuk detached from the prophecy, which begins, "Ephraim has surrounded me with falsehood, and the House of Israel with deceit." (12:1) The theme of the prophecy is rebuke about the nation's denial of its covenant with G-d and their reliance on idol-worship, on Ashur and Mitzrayim, and the deceit with is widespread throughout the society. Hoshea pleads, "As for you, return by your G-d; observe kindness and justice, and always hope to your G-d." (12:7) On the background of this come our pasuk, "Yaakov fled to the field of Aram; Yisrael worked for a with, and for a wife he guarded [sheep]."
Most of the commentators explain that the mention of Yaakov's fleeing to Aram and the work that he did by Lavan for his wives and sheep come to emphasize the ingratitude of Israel. For example, the Radak writes, "They do not remember the good that I did with their father who escaped from Esav, his brother. Even when he was there he had to work for Lavan for a wife ... It was I who was with him and blessed him and he returned from there with wealth and property." Precisely because of the great kindness that Hashem did with the "nation's father," the betrayal and ingratitude of the nation stands out.
The Malbim, however, has a different approach to explain our pasuk. According to his explanation, Hoshea did not say this pasuk to the people, but rather the people said it as a retort to the accusations of the prophet. When Hoshea rebukes them about the deceit and dishonesty, the nation answers him, "Yaakov fled to the field of Aram!"
Because of cheating and deceit Yaakov fled from Esav to the field of Aram, because he deceived Esav about the birthright and the blessing, and, if so, even Yaakov was deceitful! Afterwards, while in the house of Lavan, he worked for a wife, Rachel, and Lavan cheated him and gave him Leah. He succeeded in his fraud, because afterwards [Yaakov] guarded the sheep a second time for another wife, so that he had to guard for two wives. If so, deceit was already practiced in the times of our ancestors! Therefore, Hoshea argues with the people that one cannot come with arguments of the cheating and deceit that Yaakov himself practiced, and that others did to him.
Why, in fact, did Yaakov have to deceive, to lie and act cunningly, in order to receive the birthright and the blessings? This can be understood based on the principle that when G-d tests a person, the trial must go against the person's nature. Only in this way does the person prove that he is, indeed, an "eved Hashem," and not a servant to his natural tendencies. Therefore, Avraham, who excelled in the trait of chesed, had to be tested in the Akeidah with an extreme act of "gevurah," and "anti-chesed" through killing his son. Therefore, in the end of the Akeidah it says, "Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man." (Bereishit 22:12) Yitzchak, whose trait is that of "pachad" (fear) or "gevurah," was tested at the Akeidah with self-sacrifice, which is the pinnacle of "chesed" and giving.
For this same reason, Yaakov, who was the man of truth ("emet"), was tested contrary to his nature with deceit and falsehood. In contrast to the first impression, anyone who learns the parsha in depth will see that Yaakov does not want to receive the blessings through deceit. He cries out against the entire plot, but understands that it is incumbent upon him to do so at the prophetic command of his mother, "It was said to me in a prophecy." Only Rivka is active in the whole story, whereas Yaakov says, "Perhaps [=I wish] my father will feel me," which hints to his desire that his father recognize the deceit and withhold the blessings from him. (GR"A on Parshat Chayei Sarah)
According to the Malbim's explanation of the Haftorah, Bnei Yisrael mention not only the deceit of Yaakov, but also the deceit that was done to him. First and foremost, Lavan Ha'arami [=haramai], who cheated Yaakov both in his marriage and also in his salary. Also the story of Yosef's disappearance was only a lie that his children told him, a lie that caused him twenty-two years of terrible suffering and anguish. In is difficult not to note the "mida keneged mida" (quid quo pro) -- deceit on account of deceit, falsehood on account of falsehood. However, if we explained earlier that Yaakov's deceit in the story of the blessings was a test, and he acted under the command of his prophetic mother against his will, to prove that he is an "eved Hashem" even against his nature -- why was he punished and made to suffer? Standing up to a test is meant to bring about reward and not suffering!
However, there are certain forms of "Avodat Hashem" that are "dangerous," for which unconventional means must be used, as the Netziv writes (Harchev Davar Bereishit 27:9):
A poison is certainly used sometimes as a medicine for a sick person, and still it is called a poison because usually it kills. Even when it is needed for life is requires great precision by the doctor, and exact measurement not to overdose even slightly which will endanger him ... When the time came for Yaakov to use the traits of dishonestly and cunning, and it was a sin "lishma" ... but one has to be very careful not to benefit from it at all. The Netziv explains that even though Yaakov was forced by his mother's command, even so, some joy was caused when he heard Esav's scream, and therefore he was punished.
Furthermore, in some rare situations, even if it is necessary to act in a certain extreme manner, which has negative influences, sometimes only suffering atones. In an "ir hanidachat" (a city led astray to idol-worship) we must do certain actions that have an influence of cruelty. Therefore, the Torah promises, "He will give you mercy and be merciful to you." (Devarim 17:18) Similarly, here suffering was necessary for Yaakov in order to balance the negative influence caused by his deceit. Yaakov had to deceive in order to withstand the test, and afterwards he had to atone for the deceit though suffering of fraud that was aimed at him. This is like a person who is allowed to fast on Shabbat a "ta'anit chalom" (a fast meant to counter a ominous dream), but must fast afterwards on Sun. to atone for the fact that he fasted on Shabbat. (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 288:4)
Thus, even though "Yaakov fled to the field of Aram," -- because of the dishonesty that was a test for him and forced upon him -- even so, "Yisrael worked for a wife, and for a wife he guarded [sheep]." He was cheated in order to purify and cleanse him of the stain of dishonesty -- "Give truth to Yaakov!"
קוד השיעור: 3603