Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Face Of Evil

When Yaakov Avinu decides to leave Lavan's house he calls a meeting with his two wives, Rochel and Leah. At this meeting Yaakov describes his reason for bailing out on Lavan. It's not because of the continuing saga of lies and deceit that infest Lavan's house and property (the very presence of both Rochel and Leah at this meeting is a striking reminder of that fact) and it is not the ever presence of idolatry. The reason, in a nutshell, is Lavan's face.

Yaakov comments to his wives that Lavan's face has changed and "… isn't like it was yesterday or the day before " [Bereshis 31:2]. Was there a new evil in Lavan that Yaakov was detecting ?

The simple meaning of the passuk is that Lavan was becoming increasingly jealous of the degree of success that Yaakov was having in amassing his own fortune, despite the severe and convoluted restrictions that Lavan placed on him.

On a different level, however, we may suggest that it wasn't Lavan's dismay at all. Lavan was same miserable old cretin he always was. What changed were Yaakov's sensitivities. Every day, Yaakov would encounter Lavan and be struck anew by the unmistakable look of evil upon Lavan's face. He would see him and recoil in inner disgust. On this day, however, things were different. After twenty long years of gratingly resisting Lavan's influence – Yaakov looked upon that face of evil and saw that it wasn't so bad. His level of inner recoil was somewhat muted.

This, more than anything else, was a strong warning signal. As long as Lavan looked like a crook – Yaakov felt that he was not in danger of spiritual contamination – he knew the enemy and would be cautious during any interactions. But when Lavan ceased to look the part – Yaakov realized that what was really faulty was his own compass. He could no longer trust himself to distinguish between an innocent action and one tainted with Lavan's ways of deceit. He had to leave.

And what about us ? Do we notice shifts in our "comfort zone" ? Does something that was once appalling become now, a little less so ? That could be a sign of maturity or growth. Or in could be a warning sign. If certain negative things (language, imagery, discussion topics) cease to be taboo and disgusting maybe we are being shown the true face of evil. Maybe we need a change.

Hatzlacha !!