In our time, we’ve become accustomed to deceptive promises. The savvy consumer is advised to read advertisements between the lines, not to make the impulse decisions salespeople would have us make. Laws protect the consumer from blatantly false claims, but companies skillfully work within the protective guidelines to push us to “buy now” that Whojamadingle XV200 we just discovered we desperately needed “before they’re all gone.”
When Jacob proposed marriage to Rachel, her father Laban agreed, “It is better for me to give her to you, than to give her to another man.” As it turns out, Laban, forever the swindler, secretly switched Leah for Rachel and Jacob was deceived. Was his agreement an outright lie? Rav Itzeleh Volozhiner zt”l (2nd Dean of Volozhin Yeshiva, d. 1849) notes that Laban never promised Rachel to Jacob. He stated that it’s better to give her to him, but he never said he actually would!
It’s troubling that we’ve become used to this brand of deception. It’s not only accepted as standard business practice, but perhaps it’s becoming too much of an interpersonal practice too. “When are you coming?” “I’m already on my way.” “Can we get together tomorrow?” “Sorry – I have… a bunch of things to take care of.” These commonplace responses may be true, but the eternal lessons to be drawn from Laban’s response should give us pause.
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org