True to his promise, Yaakov cared for Lavan’s flocks for 7 years. Year after year, he faithfully tended to the sheep, in the scorching hot summer days and in the freezing winter nights. Lavan’s sheep grew and multiplied under Yaakov’s steady hand.
And Lavan? He just took it easy and enjoyed counting all the money he made… thanks to Yaakov!
But sly Lavan had another trick up his sleeve (no wonder he always wore long sleeve shirts). He understood that as long as Yaakov would be working for him, HaShem would shower him with a lot of blessings and success. But once Yaakov would marry Rachel at the end of the seven years, he would be gone! Oh no! How would Lavan keep Yaakov working for him for another seven years?
At the end of the seven years, soon before Yaakov and Rachel’s wedding came closer, Lavan was ready to play his nasty trick.
The day of the wedding was approaching. Yaakov wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t be tricked by the sly Lavan into marrying the wrong woman, so he told Rachel, “Just to be on the safe side, here is a secret code. Under the Chupah, (wedding canopy) your face will be covered with a veil and I won’t be able to see who you are. You’ll tell me the secret code and I will know for sure that it’s you, Rachel.”
Finally, it was the day of the grand wedding! Lavan invited everyone in town to the festivities. But he had a little trick up his sleeve. He had secretly done a bride-swap. Now Leah is the bride!
Lavan was hoping that Yaakov would not discover the identity of his bride until the next morning long after the guests had left.
But Rachel knew that Leah didn’t know the secret code and realized that Yaakov would soon find out that he was being fooled!
How embarrassing it would be for Leah when everyone would realize that Yaakov was being “forced” to marry her against his will!
So right before the wedding ceremony, she approached her sister and whispered, “My dear sister Leah, this is the secret code, pssssss…psss.”
What a special woman Rachel was. She was willing to give up marrying Yaakov, just so Leah wouldn’t be embarrassed in public!
The Chupah was set, with the bride covered by the veil and the groom standing next to her.“The password please,” said Yaakov to the bride. And the bride whispered the secret code.
Yaakov was now convinced that his bride was Rachel, and the wedding began. It was an amazing celebration. Just one “slight” problem, Yaakov actually married Leah, and not Rachel!
The next morning, when Yaakov found out the truth, he ran to his father-in-law. “Lavan!” he shouted. “What have you done?! I had worked for Rachel all these years. Why did you trick me?!”
Lavan answered, “Well, around here, nobody marries off a younger daughter before her older sister. But all right. In a week you can marry Rachel too, if you will work for me for another 7 years.”
Without any hesitation, Yaakov agreed. He married Rachel the very next week. He kept his word to Lavan, and worked hard tending his sheep for another 7 years.
Soon after their marriage, Leah began having children: four sons in a row. She named them Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehudah.
Meanwhile, Rachel had no children at all, which made her very unhappy, and also quite jealous. “Yaakov, pray for me that I shall have children,” begged Rachel. “Without children life is meaningless!”
“It is not up to me, Rachel. HaShem will choose whether to bless you with a child,” answered Yaakov.
“Fine Yaakov,” Rachel said, “but then I want you to marry my maidservant, Bilhah. Perhaps HaShem will then have mercy on me and I will merit to have a family of my own.”
Just as Rachel had advised, Yaakov married Bilhah, and she gave birth to 2 sons. Rachel named them Dan and Naftali.
Leah also gave her maidservant, Zilpah, to Yaakov as a wife. Zilpah gave birth to 2 sons, whom Leah named Gad and Asher.
After that, Leah had another 2 sons, Yissachar and Zevulun, and finally, a daughter by the name of Dinah.
Still, Rachel was childless! How much longer could she possibly wait, while everyone else was blessed with children? Finally, after so many years of waiting, Rachel had a son! She was a mother at last! She named her son Yosef. (Eventually, she would also have a second son, named Binyamin.)
By now, Yaakov had quite a large family: four wives, 11 sons, and one daughter. He had established his family in Charan, but they would soon be moving on.
Yaakov was now ready to go back home, so he approached his boss, Lavan the Cheater, and said, “It’s time for me to move on. Let me take my wives and children and go back home.”
Lavan replied, “All right. Let’s figure out how much I owe you. Let’s see, you worked here for 14 years so you could marry my 2 daughters. How much do I now owe you?”
Yaakov thought, “Rather than gold or silver, I will request just a few sheep and with HaShem’s help I can still make a profit.
So Yaakov replied, “I’ll take all of the spotted goats and brown sheep that will be born this season.”
Lavan thought, “Heh, heh! Sounds like a great deal for me. That means he will get just a few goats and sheep. I can’t believe how terrible a businessman that son-in-law of mine is.”
“It’s a deal!” replied Lavan as he smiled his cunning smile.
But, to Lavan’s surprise, that season many of the newborn goats indeed had spots and almost all of the baby sheep were brown!
When Yaakov was ready to claim his payment, the wicked Lavan panicked and cried, “Hold it, I’m the one who’s supposed to get these brown and spotted animals. You picked something else!”
Although Yaakov knew that Lavan was playing tricks with him, he went along with it anyway.
“OK, I’ll take the animals with stripes instead,” Yaakov said.
“You got it,” exclaimed Lavan.
Soon enough, all the newborn animals came out with stripes!
Lavan was beside himself. “Huh?! What’s going on? I must have made a mistake. Let’s make a new agreement.”
So it went, on and on and on. In the end, Lavan changed his mind 100 times! In spite of the cheater Lavan, and of course with plenty of help from HaShem, Yaakov was blessed and he became a very, very wealthy man.
Yaakov continued to faithfully tend to Lavan’s sheep, day in, and day out – in the scorching hot sun during the day and the freezing wind and rain at night. But Lavan was meaner than ever.
One day HaShem called out to Yaakov, “Return to the house of your parents – to your birthplace. I will protect you.”
Yaakov started to make plans for his grand exit from Lavan’s place. BUT HOW? It seemed that Lavan would never willingly let Yaakov’s family leave.
There was only one solution. The family would have to sneak away when Lavan wasn’t looking.
Yaakov’s opportunity finally came when Lavan left on a 3-day trip. Yaakov gathered his four wives, 11 sons, and one daughter, and all of their possessions, and secretly fled Lavan’s house.
Rachel saw a golden opportunity to do something she had wanted to do for a long time – get rid of the idols in her father’s house! She secretly collected them and hid them under the saddle of her camel.
On the third day Lavan found out that Yaakov, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Dan, Naftali, Yissachar, Zevulun, Gad, Asher, Yosef, and Dinah had all run off! He was FURIOUS! He was FUMING!
Lavan quickly ran out and chased after them. On the way he was planning how he would punish Yaakov when he caught up with him. But HaShem appeared to Lavan in a dream and warned him, “Don’t you dare harm Yaakov!”
Lavan had a quick switch of attitude, and when he finally did catch up with Yaakov and his family, he exclaimed. “Why did you run away, my dear Yaakov? If only you told me beforehand, I would have made a huge going-away party for the family with plenty of music! After all, they are my grandchildren. I didn’t even have a chance to properly say goodbye and kiss them!”
Yaakov did not interrupt his father-in-law as Lavan continued berating him, “the truth is, you deserve to be punished, but lucky for you, HaShem warned me not to harm you. But tell me Yaakov, why did you steal my idols?!”
Yaakov was shocked, “I have no idea where your idols are or who stole it, but they are not here. Go ahead and search everywhere, and if you do find it… that person who stole it die.”
Lavan proceeded to do a thorough search in all the tents. Meanwhile Rachel stayed seated on her camel, so Lavan never discovered the idols she had stashed under her saddle.
“Lavan,” Yaakov said bitterly, “This is ridiculous! I worked for you faithfully, day in day out, for 20 years. Yet, you’ve cheated me all along. Enough already! Let us go in peace!”
Lavan replied, “Yes, let’s make this official. Let us agree that neither one of us will ever harm the other. Let this peace agreement last for generations to come.”
Yaakov single-handedly brought an enormous stone and set it upright as a monument to their peace agreement. Yaakov’s sons gathered more stones and piled them near the big stone. Yaakov named this place Galeid, meaning: Gal – pile, [is an] Eid – witness.
Lavan woke up early the next morning, kissed his family goodbye, and returned to Charan, while Yaakov’s family continued their journey back to the land of Cana’an.
What will happen to Yaakov, after all these years? Will he meet up with his evil twin brother Eisav? Will Eisav attempt to kill him or will they finally settle their differences?
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