"What is my crime...that you should pursue me?" A rabbinic view

G-d has saved us before from those who are wicked for the sake of being wicked.

Professor Gerald Aranoff

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

Now Jacob became incensed and took up his grievance with Laban. Jacob spoke up and said to Laban, “What is my crime, what is my guilt that you should pursue me?

Jacob tried for 20 years to make Laban good and righteous.  I have written before:  /Articles/Article.aspx/17833#.VkxTLZuIrIU

“My theory is that Laban and Balaam and Balaam’s father Beor were good and righteous at first.”

An opinion in the Zohar states that Jacob had some success in making Laban acknowledge God, but that faded.

Zohar Bereshit 164b:

“Rabbi Isaac said: All this reproof which Jacob administered to Laban served to make him acknowledge the Holy One, blessed be He, as is proved from Laban's words: If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides my daughters—though no one else be about, remember, God Himself will be witness between you and me”(Genesis 31:50).  But observe that it is further written:  “May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor”—their ancestral deities—“judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac” (Ibid. 53). This indicates that, sinner as he was, he reverted to his former idolatrous worship, for after invoking the God of Abraham, he immediately added the god of Nahor.”

Before Mount Sinai there were righteous prophets among the gentiles. God offered the Torah to the gentiles and sent them prophets. The Gentiles rejected the Torah.

Talmud, Tractate Baba Bathra 15b: “Seven prophets prophesied to the heathen, namely, Balaam and his father, Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite.”

Baba Bathra 15a: “You say that Moses wrote his book and the section of Balaam and Job.”

Jacob and Laban knew well these righteous prophets among the gentiles.

Sefer Hayashar (Hebrew) printed Tamuz 5765, states on page 139:

“Jacob told Laban all that his brother Esau did to him and Eliphaz, his (Esau’s) son did to him in the way…These are the sons of Laban he fathered in those days: His eldest was Beor…”

In the midrash Eliphaz, Esau’s first born, was the leading of the 3 friends of Job (Job 42:7).  In the midrash Beor, Laban’s eldest son, was the father of Balaam and was righteous, at first, as they were both prophets.

Nahor and Milcah, Laban grandparents, were righteous and had righteous children,  including Uz the first born (Genesis 22:21) father of Job (Job 1:1), Buz, father of Barachel the Buzite father of Elihu (Job 32:2).

There were righteous men and women among the gentiles in those days.

Sefer Hayashar (Hebrew) printed Tamuz 5765, states on page 143:

“At that time Rivka, Jacob’s mother, sent Deborah daughter of Uz [son of Nahor and Milcah] her nurse and 2 men from Isaac’s servants to Jacob.”

 Abraham, Isaac and Jacob preached to all mankind to follow in God’s ways, the ways of Torah. 

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob loved all mankind especially their near relatives:  Abraham loved Ishmael. Isaac loved Esau, and Jacob did love Laban until Laban sought to kill him.

The world was generally respectful to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Ishmael was respectful to Abraham.  Esau was respectful to Isaac.  Laban was respectful to Jacob, until “Jacob also saw that Laban’s manner toward him was not as it had been in the past” (Genesis 31:2).

The midrash says that God gave our forefathers, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, a foretaste of the future world. They used their God given powers and blessings to try to make the whole world righteous.  In the midrash, God gave Noah, too, a foretaste of the future world. When Noah was 600 years old, God brought a flood to drown all mankind except for Noah and his immediate family. Noah gave up on the rest of mankind, while Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not.

The wicked of Noah’s generation paid little attention to him.  Noah saw he was fighting a losing battle.  God gave mankind wonderful blessings and prophets of God, such as Enoch and Methusaleh, to teach and to preach---yet the generations were so abysmally wicked. 

In the midrash, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had gifts, possibly from the Garden of Eden, and had knowledge from prophecy.  This greatly impressed the gentiles.

Baba Bathra 16b:

“R. Eliezer the Modiite said that Abraham possessed a power of reading the stars for which he was much sought after by the potentates of East and West. R. Simeon b. Yohai said: Abraham had a precious stone hung round his neck which brought immediate healing to any sick person who looked on it, and when Abraham our father departed from this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, suspended it from the orb of the sun.”

God blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with a foretaste of the world to come.

Baba Bathra 17a:

“Our Rabbis taught: There were three to whom the Holy One, blessed be He, gave a foretaste of the future world while they were still in this world, to wit, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham [we know] because it is written of him, Abraham was now old, advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things (Genesis 24:1). Isaac, because it is written, Isaac was seized with very violent trembling. “Who was it then,” he demanded, “that hunted game and brought it to me? Moreover, I ate of it before you came, and I blessed him; now he must remain blessed!” (Ibid. 27:33). Jacob, because it is written, Please accept my present which has been brought to you, for God has favored me and I have plenty.” And when he urged him, he accepted (Ibid. 33:11).”

Laban knew that Jacob brought tremendous blessings: “But Laban said to him, If you will indulge me, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me on your account” (Genesis 30:27).

Laban was a master trickster.  He made a peace treaty with Jacob, but immediately sent a message to Esau to kill Jacob.

Sefer Hayashar (Hebrew) printed Tamuz 5765, states on page 146-7:

“Now when Laban returned to his land, he quickly sent his eldest son, Beor [father of Balaam] and he was 17 and with him Avichoref son of Uz son of Nahor and with them 10 men.  They hurried and went the way before Jacob going a different way to land of Seir.  The came to Esau and told him this is what said your relative to your mother, Laban son of Betuel, says: Have you heard what your brother Jacob did to me who came to me at the beginning naked and bare? I met him and brought him to my house in honor and I made him great and I gave him my 2 daughters as wives and two maids.  God blessed him because of me and he enlarged much and he has sons and daughters and maids.  Also flock, cattle, camels, donkeys he had from me very much, no number, also much silver and gold.  When he saw his great success he abandoned me when I went to shear my flocks.  He rose up and fled hurriedly.  He took his wives and children on camels and led all his flock and all his possessions he amassed in my land.  He turned his face to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.  He didn’t allow me to kiss my sons and daughters.  He led my daughters as sword captives.  He stole my gods and fled.  Now I left him at the hill at Nahal Yabok, him and all he has, nothing missing.  If you desire to go to him, go, and you’ll find him, and do to him as your soul wishes.”

We say in the Passover Haggadah “You shall then recite as follows before the Lord your God: My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation” (Deuteronomy 26:5).  Rashi states: “We remember the Almighty’s grace My father was a fugitive Aramean. Laban sought to uproot it all, when he pursued after Jacob. Since he thought to do such, the Almighty accounts that he did. The nations of the world, idolaters, the Holy One Blessed Be He, accounts wicked thoughts as acted.”

Laban tried to kill Jacob.  God saved Jacob.  Laban sent his son Beor father of Balaam to Esau that Esau should kill Jacob. Balaam tried to kill the Israelites. Laban and Esau did not kill Jacob. Nor did Balaam, Pharaoh and all wicked throughout millennia succeed in their wickedness.

Today, we see such savage pschotic killing behavior of Arabs knifing shooting and running over Jews in Jerusalem and around the country.  Our enemies make war to kill us.  I pray to God to save us as He save us from all the wicked thoughout history. Speedily, in our time, may we see “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord with one name” (Zachariah 14:9).

over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord with one name” (Zachariah 14:9).