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When Yaakov sends messengers to Eisav he reports that ""I have sojourned with Laban," (עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי). Many commentators delve into this statement to explain what Yaakov is getting across but I am wondering if there are any opinions that see the statement as a threat, i.e. "I have spent twenty years with someone as low and sneaky as Lavan, so I am not the same potential victim that you, Eisav, remember."

The Stone Chumash reports that the "garti" is connected to his keeping the Taryag mitzvot so "[Esau] should not trifle with Jacob, for his righteousness was intact" so it is a threat of sorts, but not one based on Lavan. I am looking for someone who sees the threat steeped in a reported influence of Lavan as that would be the only thing that would really have an impact on Eisav; he would respect deceit and not righteousness.

I went through the commentators on sefaria and didn't find anyone who (to my limited understanding) takes this approach. Does any commentator discuss this?

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  • I believe the Stone Chumash is quoting Rashi on the passuk and your idea that garti might be a threat is quite intriguing I can see an argument for it
    – ezra
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:54
  • @EzraHoerster Stone seems to be extrapolating from the medrashic taryag idea and giving a reason why saying that line would be useful.
    – rosends
    Dec 12 '16 at 14:56
  • I'm pretty sure it is also in the Medrash because Rashi often brings up points from it but you can see it in Rashi on passuk hei chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8227#showrashi=true Garti has a gematria of 613 that's why it is related to the Taryag mitzvos
    – ezra
    Dec 12 '16 at 15:02
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The Midrash Rabba 75:5 has such an understanding.

כה אמר עבדך יעקב! עם לבן גרתי, לבן דהוא רבהון דרמאי יהיבתיה בחפתי לההוא גברא, על אחת כמה וכמה!

Eitz Yosef translates יהיבתיה בחפתי as given in the palm of my hand, and says it is an expression that Yaakov was able to defeat Lavan at will.

Eitz Yosef however goes on to say that this was not meant as a direct threat. We know Yaakov was coming to pacify Esav. This message was meant to say since Yaakov most definitely could stand up to Esav, the presents sent as a peace offering should therefore be even more meaningful as a sign of Yaakov's desire to humble himself before Esav in order to make peace and give him honor.

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  • And Rabbi David Feinstein is very fond of this understanding. He says it every year by his Chumash shiur on the parsha.
    – user6591
    Dec 12 '16 at 16:04

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