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The Declaration (Viduy) said when bringing the BIKKURIM includes saying “An Aramian wanted to destroy my father, and he went down to Egypt” Yaakov had many things Happen to him why choose the episodes with Lavan and going down to Egypt (Mitzrayim) versus his battles with his brother Eisav?

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    What do you have against Armenians? :) – mevaqesh Aug 9 '16 at 17:50
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I have to check my source, but I believe a simple answer was that Lavon had desired to wipe out Yakaov and his family. This would have terminated the nation of Israel. This is the first instance of Hashem's divine intervention (Hashgacha Pratit) to save the Jewish nation.

As a side note, we tend to get excited about the sensationalism of Yetzias Mitzraim, the exodus from Egypt. The revealed miracles of the plagues and splitting of the sea. We also need to realize the hidden miracles of Hashem's divine intervention in the laws of nature to maintain the nation of Israel throughout history.

Thanks for considering this approach.

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The Alshich answers that Lavan is the source of all our problems. If he would have given Rochel to Yaakov then Yosef would have been born first, and the brothers would never have fought with him. Thereby never selling him to slavery, this would have prevented our exile in Egypt from ever happening. That is why he is mentioned as he was the source of our going down to Egypt and not Eisav.

Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky says it is not just Lavan it is all Arameans. As when Yaakov was going to marry Leah and not Rochel, they all knew and said nothing.

Rav Kasriel Auerbach of Ponovezh explains there is a fundamental difference between Eisav's hatred of the Jews and Lavan’s hatred. That is Eisav hatred in this time period, was based on the fact that Yaakov had stolen his Brachos, as later we see when they meet up again and Yaakov points out that Brachos that Yitzchak had given had not come true Eisav does nothing, but Lavan should have had nothing but positive feelings for Yaakov as he made him rich and was the reason he had sons. This is why we focus in this declaration on Lavan so we understand and internalize that the eternal Hatred of the Jew is one without reasoning.

The Brisker Rav has a different reason. The declaration of Bikkurim is meant to thank Hashem for a deliverance from hardship. Eisav is still around and still can cause us problems while Lavan is no longer around so in our declaration we are thanking Hashem for delivering us completely from Lavan but Eisav as an enemy to the Jews still stands.

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The Torah never tells us that Laban went down to Egypt, but only that Ya'acov became a Great Nation there (in Mitzrayim) AFTER wandering landless as a shepard in Paddan Aram....

The Midrash Pesach Hagaddah changed "oved" to "ibed":

The midrash tells us that if you change the vowels from "oved" to "ibed," the meaning is changed from "wandering" to "destroyed." Thus, " A wandering Aramean was my father" will read, "An Aramean [Laban] tried to destroy my father."

Ya'acov lived in Aram, while courting Rachel and working for her father Laban, an Aramean [viz, which we would call a modern day Syrian]. Consequently, in the Pesach Hagaddah, Laban is usually seen as the Aramean who would have sought to destroy Ya'acob, reminding us of the treachery of Laban, who tricked Ya'acov into marrying Leah before Rachel, then tricked him into twenty years of servitude, and finally tried to deny him his dowry. Therefore, Laban may be viewed as the symbol of everyone who has tried to destroy the Jewish People.

While Rashi accepted this reading, Ibn Ezra strongly rejected it, in favor of the interpretation that the verse refers to Ya'acov, who, when he was in Aram, was lost.

In reading the Midrash (Hagaddah) together with B'rashith 31.43, if one takes into account the accusation of Laban that Ya'acov stole Laban's idols, we can see how this accusation might suffice to "uproot everything" (as the penalty for theft of idols would be a death sentence); yet, we are left with the phrase "he went down into Egypt," so identifying who went down to Egypt tells us who the Aramean is.

"A wandering Aramean was my father [’arami ’oved avi]; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous." The Torah says, "he went down into Egypt..., and there he became a great nation...." This passuk serves to identify who the wandering Aramean is: Clearly, our Torah teaches that Laban returned to Aram (32.1) and Ya'acov went down to Egypt and [there] became a great nation (46.27).

Ibn Ezra, rejects the interpretation of the Midrash Pesach Hagaddah and says, Ya'acov was lost while in Aram! Which I interpret to mean he was without roots in the land [of Paddan Aram], that is, he was a landless dweller in tents. He kept to his "family trade" - to tradition.

The Ibn Ezra makes two points. First, he proves the grammatical impossibility of the Haggada's reading. He then suggests that the Aramean is Yaakov, who dwelt with Lavan in Aram. The intention, once again, is to stress how our forefathers had no land, and therefore, that the Land of Israel is a gift only by virtue of G-D to Am Yisrael.

I might stress, Bikkurim ("First-Fruits" pri ha'adama) are "a gift [specifically connected to Eretz Yisrael] only by virtue of G-D to Am Yisrael."

Going back to the source for the Bikurim ritual, (Devarim 26.1-11) verse 10 tells us to end this Bikurim (First-fruits) Recitation with our definitive connection to the Land of Eretz Yisrael! The Torah is emphasizing that we are no longer landless subject to the whims and wages of a foreign master [Laban]: "you have changed my wages these ten times," B'rashith 31.41) but we, as Ya'acov's children are the object of HaShem's blessing in the Land of Eretz Yisrael, that which HaShem has sworn to our fathers and has given to us: Devarim's emphasis in 26.2, and 10 is on the land (ha'Adamah הָאֲדָמָה that HaShem chose, [Moriah] the place of sacrifice B'rashith 8.8, 13, 21; 22.14) which the Children of Ya'acov possess for an inheritance!

Devarim 26.2 "that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee;" here, the emphasis is on the land and the first-fruits which belongs to the Priest in the place HaShem chose. "pri haAdamah" - "which thou shalt bring in from thy land...."

"And it will be when you are come into the land... and possess it, etc."; "I profess this day unto the L-RD thy G-D, that I am come unto the land which the L-RD swore unto our fathers to give us.'" Devarim 26.10 "And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O L-RD, hast given me.' And thou shalt set it down before the L-RD thy G-D, and worship before the L-RD thy G-D."

  • Half of this has nothing to do with the OP. According to Rashi’s understanding, which is that of the Haggadah as well, what is the connection between ארמי אבד אבי and the rest of the passage? – DonielF Aug 27 '18 at 0:08
  • The question was why is Lavan and his attempt to destroy Yaakov connected to the exile in Mitzraim and the Egyptian attempt to destroy Bnai Yisrael. Why isn't the attempt of Eisav mentioned. This does not really answer the question. – sabbahillel Aug 27 '18 at 1:40
  • @DonielF the OP - please clarify what is OP? – Yochanan Mauritz Hummasti Aug 27 '18 at 1:42
  • @YochananMauritzHummasti Original Post - meaning, the question you’re responding to, in this case. – DonielF Aug 27 '18 at 1:43
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Most pashtanim understand that "Arami oved Avi" refers to Yaakov (or Avraham); not Lavan!

JPS translation:

You shall then recite as follows before the LORD your God: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.

Rashbam writes:

(ה) ארמי אובד אבי - אבי אברהם ארמי היה, אובד וגולה מארץ ארם. כדכת' לך לך מארצך, וכדכת' ויהי כאשר התעו אותי אלהים מבית אבי. לשון אובד ותועה אחד הם באדם הגולה כדכת' תעיתי כשה אובד בקש עבדך, צאן אובדות היו עמי רועיהם התעום. כלומר מארץ נכריה באו אבותינו לארץ הזאת ונתנה הקדוש ברוך הוא לנו:

A wandering Aramean was my father: My ancestor Abraham was an Aramean, lost and exiled from the land of Aram. (translation my own)

Chizkuni (Deut. 26:5):

ארמי אבד אבי סרסהו יעקב אבי הארמי כשהיה הוא בארם היה אובד פי' עני בלא ממון שלא היה מוחזק בארץ. אבד לשון עני כמו תנו שכר לאובד ישתה וישכח רישו, ואין לתמוה איך נקרא יעקב ארמי שהרי דוגמתו מצינו יתרא הישמעאלי והוא היה ישראלי.

That, is, my ancestor Jacob was a poor wanderer.

Sforno writes similarly:

הנה אבי שהיה יעקב היה זמן מה ארמי אובד שלא היה לו בית מושב ובכן לא היה מוכן להעמיד גוי ראוי לרשת ארץ

That Jacob was for a time an itinerant Aramean.

Shadal combines the two explanations, and says that "my father" refers to the Avot collectively who were wanderers.

אבי: כולל כל האבות כאחד שהיו תועים מגוי אל גוי, והראשון בא מארם

Accordingly, the the continuation is clear: the verse speaks of the wandering of our ancestors from land to land.


Related: What does, 'A wandering Aramean was my father' mean in Dt 26:5? How can I distinguish p'shat from interpretation in torah translations if I'm not fluent in Hebrew?

  • I assume I was downvoted by a poor wandering commentless downvoter. – mevaqesh Sep 23 '16 at 16:32
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    This doesn’t answer the question. The OP is assuming like those who do translate it as referring to Lavan. – DonielF Aug 27 '18 at 0:24

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