WE MUST ALWAYS CAREFULLY WEIGH OUR WORDS. WE MUST BE FAITHFUL WITH THE BELONGINGS OF OTHERS
עם אשׁר תמצא את־אלהיך לא יחיה ... ׃
But if you find your gods with someone, that person will not remain alive. ... (Gen 31:32)
Rashi cites the Midrash which states that, because of this curse Rachel died shortly thereafter ... Sforno writes that Ya'akov assumed that one of his servants must have stolen the idols in order to worship them. It did not occur to him that his own wife took them. Of course not to worship them, but rather to prevent her father from worshiping them. We must always carefully weigh our words, that no harm can conceivably result from them, and all the more if we are in a position of responsibility..(Chofetz Chayim al Hatorah, on this verse).
The chofetz Chayim was once eating a meal at an inn ... One of the guests present mentioned that the food lacked salt. The Chofetz Chayim whispered to him, "That's lashon harah!". At first the guest did not understand ... but a short while later ... he saw the owner who had overheard the guest's comment, strongly censure the cook for not having taken sufficient care in preparing the meal for his prominent guests. (Heard from Rabbi Aharon Paperman ...)
One time I commented to a waitress how she must be making good tips on Sunday morning with all the people coming out of Church to eat at the restaurant where she worked. She said that not only was it her worst tip day, but also the day when she received the most criticism from picky customers. I found this to be a sad statement. It is so easy nowadays to let our mouths spill all sorts of criticism. Religious and political dialogue seems to be the most venomous of all. YouTube and FB overflow with venomous religious debates.
It is also a sad state of affairs when husbands use offensive epithets on their wives, or when wives put down their husbands using patronizing criticism. As parents, we play the role of HaShem in the lives of our children, therefore, we should never allow ourselves to call our children names. It is a bad reflection on who these children really belong to!
I heard one time someone complaining that whatever they post on FB can never be erased. They felt that it was an infringement of their right to privacy. It seems though that FB provides an excellent reality check. Whether our words are posted on FB or not, once they are uttered, they are like toothpaste coming out of a tube: they can never be put back.
Remember what the Master said on the matter:
The good person brings forth good things from his store of good, and the evil person brings forth evil things from his store of evil. Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgment, people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned." (Mat 12:35-37)
Laban had heavily mistreated and used Jacob, but Jacob was not going to stoop down and play Laban's game. Whatever came to him, Jacob learned to keep his integrity. If someone from Jacob's camp had stolen for Laban the thief, that person would not live. That is what we call the 'fear of Hashem', and performing for an audience of One!
Along with the whole idol incident, Laban has the audacity to accuse Jacob of wrongdoing,
"What do you mean by deceiving me and carrying off my daughters as if they were captives taken in war? Why did you flee in secret and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and lyres. You didn't even let me kiss my sons and daughters good-bye! What a stupid thing to do! I have it in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night and said, 'Be careful that you don't say anything to Ya`akov, either good or bad.' Granted that you had to leave, because you longed so deeply for your father's house; ..." (Gen 31:26-30 CJB)
When Laban couldn't find anything, Jacob who didn't know that Rachel had taken idols to keep them away from her father, indignantly claimed his righteousness by reminding Laban of his above perfect work ethics,
... "What have I done wrong?" he demanded. "What is my offense, that you have come after me in hot pursuit? You have felt around in all my stuff, but what have you found of all your household goods? Put it here, in front of my kinsmen and yours, so that they can render judgment between the two of us!
- I have been with you for the past twenty years!
- Your female sheep and goats haven't aborted their young, and
- I haven't eaten the male animals in your flocks.
- If one of your flock was destroyed by a wild animal, I didn't bring the carcass to you but bore the loss myself.
- You demanded that I compensate you for any animal stolen, whether by day or by night.
- Here's how it was for me: uring the day thirst consumed me,
- and at night the cold -- my sleep fled from my eyes.
- These twenty years I've been in your house -- I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock; and you changed my wages ten times!
If the God of my father, the God of Avraham, the one whom Yitz'chak fears, had not been on my side, by now you would certainly have already sent me away with nothing! God has seen how distressed I've been and how hard I've worked, and last night he passed judgment in my favor." Gen 31:36-42 CJB
We have here the perfect example of Messiah who did not open his mouth in front of persecution and injustice (Is 53:7); of Paul who teaches that it is better to be wronged while relying on HaShem's justice than to seek revenge in secular courts of law (1 Cor 6:7). Indeed, in spite of Laban's unjust and ungodly treatment towards him, Jacob took it on the chin and learned to rely on his God for the future.
"For I think God has been placing us emissaries on display at the tail end of the parade, like men condemned to die in the public arena: we have become a spectacle before the whole universe, angels as well as men. For the Messiah's sake we are fools, but united with the Messiah you are wise! We are weak, but you are strong; you are honored, but we are dishonored. Till this very moment we go hungry and thirsty, we are dressed in rags, we are treated roughly, we wander from place to place, we exhaust ourselves working with our own hands for our living. When we are cursed, we keep on blessing; when we are persecuted, we go on putting up with it; when we are slandered, we continue making our appeal. We are the world's garbage, the scum of the earth -- yes, to this moment!"
(1Co 4:9-13 CJB)
Jacob indeed seems to have taken pages from his father Isaac's book when the Philistines stole his wells (Gen 26;12-30), as well as from his grandfather Abraham in the episode of the Hittite mockingly, asking for an outrageous sum of money for the Cave of Marchpela, which Abraham humbly gave (Gen 23). These patriarchs showed a perfect example of trusting Hashem.
If we are indeed sons of Abraham, we ought to, as Yeshua said 'do the works of Abraham' (John 8:39) If we are sons of the covenant, we ought to act like the people of the covenant. The character of a man is never so tested as when faced with strong unjust opposition. The patriarchs, the disciples, and even Yeshua learned obedience through the things they suffered, and mostly suffered at the hand of unrighteous men.
In these words from the Tanach, we learn how these giants of the faith conducted their affairs and their lives in this world that was so contradictory to them. We have these words so that we also learn how to conduct our lives and affairs in this world that is so contradictory to us. And if this is the way we ought to conduct ourselves towards enemies, towards strangers in the world, how much should we apply these same principles towards our brethren in the Congregation, towards those of the Body of Messiah. Our Master Yeshua taught us that this, not correct theology and doctrine, was the key to 'perfect' and being the Children of our father in Heaven.
"You have heard that our fathers were told,
'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.'
But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong.
On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek,
let him hit you on the left cheek too!
If someone wants to sue you for your shirt,
let him have your coat as well!
And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile,
carry it for two!
When someone asks you for something,
give it to him;
When someone wants to borrow something from you,
lend it to him.
"You have heard that our fathers were told,
'Love your neighbor -- and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you,
Love your enemies!
Pray for those who persecute you!
Then you will become children of your Father in heaven.
For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike,
and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. What reward do you get if you love only those who love you?
Why, even tax-collectors do that!
And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary?
Even the Goyim do that!
Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:38-48 CJB)
R' Gavriel Lumbroso