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A Lesson From Grandpa Laban

A Lesson From Grandpa Laban

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An English Jew, a prominent novelist and intellectual, is informed that he will be knighted. The queen's protocol officials prepare him and other knights-to-be for the ceremony. He is informed that when he stands before the queen, just before being knighted, he is to recite certain Latin words. On the day of the ceremony, the man is very nervous and, sure enough, when he approaches the queen, he forgets the Latin expression. As precious seconds tick by, the only non-English words that he knows pour out of him: "Ma nishtana halaila hazeh mikol haleilot!" The queen, confused, turns to her protocol officer and asks: "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Knighthood will not change that fact. Sooner or later, the differences between this knight and all the other knights will become apparent.

Attempts to break down the walls between Jews and non-Jews by assimilating will not fix anti-SemitismUnfortunately, there are many Jews who are under the impression that the way to solve the age old problem of anti-Semitism is by joining and assimilating into the prevalent society and culture. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! If only we stopped putting up social fences and embraced the gentiles of this world and married them, they argue, we would rid the world of arguably its worst historic shame!

The Passover Haggadah addresses this mistake. Just after it discusses the perennial state of anti-Semitism – "In every generation they stand up against us to destroy us" – it immediately states: "Go and learn from Laban the Aramite."

What's the connection?

The Haggadah is perhaps responding to the dangerous notion of blaming anti-Semitism on ourselves, responding to those who believe that if only we were closer to the other nations, we would once and for all cure the world of its anti-Semitic tendencies.

"Go and learn from Laban," says the author of the Haggadah. Which gentile in Jewish history was closer to Jews than Grandpa Laban. He was the patriarch: Jacob's uncle, father-in-law, employer, and Zeide (grandfather) to his children. You can't get closer than that. Laban was truly family! Yet, his anti-Semitism was so legendary that the Haggadah claims that it was worse than Pharaoh's.

In other words, attempts to break down the walls between Jews and non-Jews by assimilating and intermarrying will not fix anti-Semitism. Look at Germany before the Holocaust where Jews were not just accepted as equals in German culture, they were Germany itself. Yet, it was ironically in that country where the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism occurred.

The only solution to anti-Semitism is, as the Haggadah itself states: "And this – G‑d's covenant and promise – is what stood by our parents and us. For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"

Only a strong and proud Israel with unshakeable trust in G‑d will break the anti-Semites of this world. Only when the Labans of this world see that our Jewishness is non-negotiable will they respect us and live in peace with us.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Rabbi Avraham E. Plotkin is the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Markham, Ontario.
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Anonymous toronto November 26, 2014

Laban Rebecca is from the family of Laban, he cannot be that bad. He will do anything to get the covenant and blessings of the land. Reply

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