Zeal for mitzvos


In the Haggadah portion of ארמי אבד אבי, the Aramean attempted to destroy my father, we commence the passage with the words צא ולמד, go out and learn. When Yaakov encountered Esav on his return from Lavan’s house, he sent Esav the following message (Bereishis 32:5)ויצו אתם לאמר כה תאמרון לאדני לעשו כה אמר עבדך יעקב עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה, he charged them, saying: “Thus shall you say, ‘To my lord, to Esav, so said your servant Yaakov: I have sojourned with Lavan and have lingered until now. Regarding the words עם לבן גרתי, I have sojourned with Lavan, Rashi writes: Alternatively, the numerical value of גרתי is six hundred and thirteen, as if to say, “I sojourned with Lavan, the wicked one, yet I kept the six hundred and thirteen commandments and I did not learn from his evil actions.” The commentators point out an apparent redundancy in Yaakov’s message. Yaakov informed Esav that he had observed the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos, so why was it necessary for him to add that he did not learn from Lavan’s evil actions? Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman הי”ד quoted his rebbe, the Chafetz Chaim זצ”ל, who answered that Yaakov was lamenting the fact that despite having observed all of the mitzvos, he did not learn how to perform the mitzvos with the same enthusiasm that Lavan employed when sinning. In a similar vein we can suggest that specifically in this passage the Haggadah instructs us, צא ולמד, go out and learn how Lavan attempted to destroy Yaakov with such zeal. To counter Lavan’s zeal for wickedness, we must use that selfsame zeal for Torah study and mitzvah performance.

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