Parshas Va’yetzei – The Peace Agreement between Yaakov and Lovon

How strange! 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 of the peace pact. 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?

One also wonders why, after Yaakov sets up a very large stone as a memorial, does he later decide to collect lots of small stones and set up another memorial? What’s wrong with the first one?

The Ramban says that “ma’ase Avos siman labonim”. What happened to the Avos 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 Clinton, whose proven rhetorical ambiguity and slippery tenses came in handy at Whye. 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 Aramaic is such a deceitful language that even 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 Lovon’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. Lovon’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 Lovon’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)

Note too, that when Lovon summarizes the agreement, he states that Yaacov must agree not to violate both the accords agreed upon over the large stone monument as well as those represented by the pile of stones. Yet he only obligates himself to fulfill the accords agreed upon over the pile of stones. Quite lopsided, isn’t it!

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.

So, too, the agreements signed at Wye are probably no different than the agreements signed in yesteryear. Only the names and places have been changed. Everything else seems to be the same!