Friday, November 23, 2012

The Peace Agreement between Yaakov and Lovon: i.e. Israel and Hamas

A D'var Torah from my father Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum Z"L published many years ago, but just as relevant today.

A careful study of Yaakov’s peace pact with Lovon, the world’s greatest swindler, will reveal some amazing similarities to today’s peace pacts with the Palestinians. While Lovon gave the name "Yigar Sahadusa," in Aramaic, to the place where he and Yaakov made peace with each other, Yaakov renamed it by its Hebrew equivalent, "Gal'ed". One wonders why the Torah bothers giving us the Aramaic name altogether? The Torah need only give us the Hebrew name, we can look up the Aramaic in the Targum, if we so desire! Rarely does the Torah use foreign words. Why here of all places? Why did Yaakov translate the agreement into Hebrew? What's wrong with the Aramaic version?
We also find many other strange happenings in the parsha. At first, Yaakov sets up a large stone monument which is to serve as witness to the agreement and only a short time later do they decide to close the agreement over a pile of stones that were collected for some other purpose. Later it seems that they use both the large stone and the pile of stones to complete the agreement. What is this all about, and what if any significance does it have? Why is it of any importance for us to know any of these seemingly minor details? All we need to know is the provisions of the deal and no more.
The Ramban says that "ma'ase Avos siman labonim". What happened to our forefathers indicates what will happen to their children, so the Torah is obviously describing what the peace pact with Lovon looked like.
Lavan was a master linguist. He knew how to use words very cleverly, so that they had a double meaning and therefore he could easily deceive people with them We all know that certain words have more than one meaning and that when one translates copy from one language to another, one can easily choose a word that will change the precise meaning of the agreement.
It is interesting to note that the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt was written in English and then translated into Hebrew and Arabic. Yet, a careful comparison of both texts will show many discrepancies between the two. Obviously each side translated the English version to give it its own interpretation and meaning.
Ask President Clinton, whose proven rhetorical ambiguity and slippery tenses came in handy at the Wye accords. He still claims that he never lied to the American people, but they just misinterpret what he said. They simply don't understand what the meaning of the word "is" is! Arafat likewise insists that the word Jihad does not have to mean an armed revolution but can also mean "peace"! How clever and deceitful!
It's interesting to note that the Aramaic language seems to be one where not only can the same word have more than one meaning as do words in most languages, but the same word can also have two very opposite meanings. The word “in” can mean either “yes” or “no”. Perhaps this is why we are told in the Gemarah that the Heavenly Angels do not respond to such a language. While Angels have no trouble studying a language and can understand them all and even read our thoughts, they want nothing to do with a language spoken in deceit. Aramaic is such a deceitful language that Chazal tell us the Heavenly Angels don't understand it, and therefore refuse to bring it in front of the Heavenly Throne. It is no wonder, therefore, that Lovon chose to write the agreement in Aramaic, whose words are full of deceit and can easily be misinterpreted. Yaakov didn't trust Lavon's Aramaic version, whose words were full of deception, and therefore translated it into Hebrew so that there be no misunderstandings.
Yaakov had plenty of experience writing business contracts with Lovon. Lavon's wording was so deceptive that he had broken them a hundred times. (See Bereishis 31:7)
How would you for instance translate "Yigar Shadusah" into English? Should it be "The pile of testimony" (two words), or "Piletestimony" (one word)? Which is more accurate, "Galed" or "Gal Ed"? There is a subtle difference between the two, but it would take a very observant lawyer to realize the difference.
Yaacov prefers it as one word "Galed" while Lovon likes Gal Ed. Why?
A careful reading of their agreement in its entirety will easily reveal Lavon's deception and double-talk. Notice how he says "Let the G-d of Avrom and Nachor judge between the two of us." Yet in the very same breath he suddenly makes a subtle change by adding the words "the god of their father". Now he is obviously referring to the god of Terach who served idols. (See Rashi). If we follow Lavan’s description of the peace pact we will notice at once that it is a little lopsided. He tells Yaakov that he must agree never to pass across both the large stone monument which he has set up nor the pile of stones, yet he agrees only not to pass across the pile of stones. This doesn't sound like a properly balanced agreement at all.
We also find mention of an agreement that Lavon claims was made at some sort of secret place called Mitzpah, yet no copy of that agreement can ever be found anywhere in the Torah, maybe that’s because no such agreement ever existed. It was just another one of Lavon’s many lies!
Now its happening all over again. I'm sure if one reads the Oslo agreement, the Israeli version will be quite different from the Arab version. Words were carefully chosen for their double meaning in order to get both parties to sign the agreement. The truth is, of course, hidden in the translation.
At first Yaakov was hopeful on getting a truthful agreement, so he set up a large rock that would serve as a constant and everlasting reminder of their obligations toward one another. Lovon, however, wanted an agreement as flimsy as a pile of small stones, that could easily be kicked apart whenever he wished. They couldn't even agree on who the mediator between the two of them would be. While Yaakov wanted it to be the G-d of his fathers, whom everyone feared, Lovon preferred false gods, whom he could easily manipulate.
A diplomat is a master at using words that are either vague or have more than one meaning so that each party will interpret the agreement the way they see fit. Lovon the master diplomat and politician wanted the agreement in Aramaic so that he could use words that he could later claim had a totally different meaning. He was called Lovon Ho'arami, which is interpreted as Haramoi which means"the deceiver." After he signed an agreement he immediately decided to change the agreement and write a new one. He makes claims that one is unable to verify and his agreements are always one sided.
So, too, the agreements signed today are no different than the agreements signed in yesteryear. Only the names and places have been changed. Everything else seems to be the same! 
Eli Teitelbaum
Published by:
Dovid Teitelbaum
Director, Camp Sdei Chemed International
“A summer camp in Israel for boys and girls (two separate programs)”

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