FROM THE RABB’ S DESK VAYETZE: דברי הרב
While on the surface the book of Genesis appears as a series of narratives concerning the creation of the world, and the lives of our patriarchs and matriarchs, there are not so subtle references to the need for our people to engage in ethical behaviour especially in the realm of business dealings. From the discussion regarding the purchase by Abraham of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron to the agreements made by him and the king of the Philistines in regard to water rights, we as readers are presented with a picture of the lives of our ancestors as reflective of moral and upstanding living.
Even the seemingly deceptive behaviour of Jacob in multiplying his flocks of sheep to the consternation of his father-in-law, Laban, as described in great detail in this weekâ€™s Torah reading is couched in ethical business actions. Jacob insists his operation to increase his flock should not be perceived as a plot to cheat Laban, and therefore distances his flock the equivalent of three days travel from that of his father-in-law. Jacobâ€™s knowledge of genetics and his trust in G-d allow for his ability to increase manifold the number of sheep he has. All is above board.
Though Jacob is working in a hostile and toxic environment, and has legitimate complaints against Laban, Jacob does not abandon one of the most important principles in management-labour relations, his responsibility to work to the utmost of his ability. Jacob reports to his wives, Rachel and Leah, that he has given his all to Laban despite the latterâ€™s machinations. His earlier condemnation of the shepherds of Laban who want to cut corners and hours reflect on his work ethic which is based on his grandfather’s admonition to the members of his household to adhere to principles of justice and righteousness.
We, as the descendants of Jacob, reflect in our daily activities the principles of ethical living as espoused and enacted by him. Temptations and circumstances threaten those pathways of life, but we must persevere in our pursuit of that which is ethical and moral in our lives and society in general.