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D'var Torah (Torah Thoughts) Parsha Vayeitzei

In this week's Parsha (Torah portion), Yaakov (Jacob) ends up at the house of his uncle Lavan, partially in order to escape his brother's wrath and partially to find a wife. Lavan greets him with open arms at first--but after a month, puts him to work: “Just because you are a kinsman, should you serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” (Bereshit/Genesis 29:15, JPS Translation).

True, Yaakov had been there for a month, but presumably he wasn't the world's most annoying guest. Was it right for Lavan to make Yaakov serve him?

The Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi), a medieval commentator, explains that Lavan was indication, “seeing that you [Yaakov] are my brother [figuratively], it is not good that you should work for me as if for nothing, in exchange only for food clothing and lodging. I want you to feel comfortable with me and to have a chance to grow economically also" (translation via Sefaria).

So perhaps Lavan's intent wasn't as malicious as it seems--unless he was trying to come up with a plausible excuse to make Yaakov work. Either way, we should all do our best when hosting others (in our homes, our dorms, and beyond) to make everyone feel welcome, and hopefully not feel enslaved.

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