So Popular: On Lavan and Ye

I saw it reported this week that Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, appeared on Alex Jones’ InfoWars show to speak about his recent remarks and said, “people in high school didn’t know what antisemitism meant until I made it popular.” Wow, just wow.

The spike in acts of hate speech and even hate crime against Jews over the last few years has made me ask the question about origin of Antisemitism. Why is there such a long history of people hating us? Where did that all start? Was it really Ye who made it popular or is he just late to the party?

In Vayetze, this week’s Torah portion, we meet Lavan the OB Anti-Semite for the second time. Jacob shows up and he is on the run from his brother. Jacob falls in love with Lavan’s younger daughter Rachel. Lavan makes Jacob work for 7 years for her but then tricks him into marrying her sister Leah instead. When Jacob confront Lavan he says:“It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the older.” (Genesis 29:26)

Why would local customs override such an agreement? Again we see something interesting in the Or HaChaim. On this he comments:

Actually, Laban argued that the local inhabitants had protested what he had agreed to. Inasmuch as the inhabitants were the majority and he was only a single individual, he Laban, had to bow to their wishes. This is why he spoke about במקומנו, “in our place.”

Or HaChaim on Genesis 29:26

Lavan Rivka’s sister and Jacob’s uncle. How is this place our place and not also Jacob’s place. Here we see Lavan reminding Jacob that he did not belong there. He was a stranger in a strange land. This is why the Passover Hagadah holds up Lavan as the paradigm of antisemitsm

What do we learn from this? Ye is late to the party and being a semite does not mean you can not be an Anti-Semite. We should be liberated to experience empathy of the “other”. We need to remember that even if we do not agree or get along, from its origins, we are still family and we should strive to understand each other.

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