I Have Sojourned with Laban

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21) “Thus shall ye say unto my lord Esau: Thus says thy servant Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban.” Jacob immediately opened, to turn into a slave before him so Esau would not look upon the blessings that his father had blessed him, because Jacob left them for the end of days.

22) What did Jacob see that he sent for Esau and said, “I have sojourned with Laban”? Did he do it on a mission from Esau? Rather, Laban the Aramean, a voice walked in the world, as no man has ever been saved from him, because he was the soothsayer of soothsayers and the greatest charmer, and the father of Be’or, and Be’or was the father of Balaam, as it is written, “Balaam… son of Be’or, the soothsayer.” And Laban was more versed in soothsaying and wizardry than them, but he still could not prevail over Jacob. And he wanted to destroy Jacob in several ways, as it is written, “A wandering Aramean was my father.” For this reason, he sent for him and said, “I have sojourned with Laban,” to let him know of his strength.

23) The whole world knew that Laban was the greatest of all sages and soothsayers and charmers. And one who Laban wished to destroy could not be saved from him. And all that Balaam knew came from Laban. It is written about Balaam, “for I know that he whom thou blesses is blessed.” It is all the more so with Laban. And the whole world feared Laban and his magic. Hence, the first word that Jacob sent to Esau was, “I have sojourned with Laban.” And not for a short time, but for twenty years was I belated with him.

24) And should you say that I have gained nothing by it, he told him, “And I have oxen, and asses.” These two are sentences, damaging, for when the two conjoin, they join only to damage the world. This means that it is not their way to harm, except when they conjoin. This is why it is written, “Thou shall not plow with an ox and an ass together,” since by doing so one causes these two varmints, ox and ass, to conjoin and damage the world.

25) “Flocks, and men-servants and maid-servants” are the lower Ketarim [plural of Keter] of the Klipot, which the Creator killed in Egypt. They are called, “first-born of cattle,” “first-born of the captive,” and the “first-born of the maid-servant. This is why it is written, “flocks, and men-servants and maid-servants.” Esau was immediately afraid and came to meet him. And he feared Jacob, as Jacob feared Esau.

26) It is like a person who is walking along the road, and as he walks, he hears of a certain robber who is lurking on the way. He meets a man and tells him, “Say, who are you?” He tells him, “I am from a regiment of a certain army.” He tells him, “Turn away from me, for all who come near me, I bring a serpent and I kill him.” That man went to the commander of the regiment and told him, “A man is coming; and anyone who comes near him, he throws a serpent at him, which bites him, and he dies.”

27) The commander of the regiment heard it and feared. He said, “It is best to walk toward him and appease him.” But when that man saw that commander, he feared and said, “Woe unto me, the commander will kill me know.” He began to bow and kneel before him. The commander said, “If he had a serpent who could kill, he would not bow like that before me.” The commander began to proud himself and said, “Since he bowed before me so, I will not kill him.”

28) “Thus says thy servant Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban and stayed with him for twenty years. And I bring a serpent to kill people.” Esau heard. He said, “Woe, who would rise against him, for now Jacob will kill me with his mouth” because he thought that since he had defeated Laban, Balaam’s father, his strength must be as great as the strength of Balaam, of whom it was said, “he whom thou blesses is blessed, and he whom thou curses is cursed,” and he can kill with his mouth. Thus, he began to walk toward him to appease him.

29) And when Jacob saw him, it is written, “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed.” And when he came near him, Jacob began to kneel and to bow before him, as it is written, “and bowed himself to the ground seven times.” Esau said, “if he had so much power, he would not have bowed before me,” and he began to pride himself.

30) It is written about Balaam, “And God came unto Balaam at night.” Of Laban it says, “And God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night.” Thus, Laban was as great as Balaam. “Take heed to thyself that thou speak not to Jacob.” Laban did not chase Jacob by the power of men to wage war against him, because the power of Jacob and his sons was greater than theirs. Rather, he chased him to kill him with his mouth and to obliterate everything, as it is written, “A wandering(1) Aramean was my father.” This is why it is written, “thou speak not,” and it is not written, “thou do not.”

31) This is the testimony that the Creator commanded to testify. It is written, “And thou shall speak and say before the Lord thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father.” “…and say” means, as it is written, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” and so he so bore against his brother.

32) It is written about Balaam, “he went not, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments,” for so is his way, because he was an charmer. Also, it is written about Laban, “I enchanted,” for he looked in his charms and his magic, to know Jacob’s dealings. And when he wanted to destroy Jacob, he wanted to destroy him with his soothsaying and charms, and the Creator did not leave Jacob, for He told him, “speak not.”

33) As Balaam, the son of Laban’s son said, “For there is no enchantment with Jacob,” meaning who can overcome them? This is because my old man wished to destroy their father with his enchantment and charms and failed, since the Creator did not enable him to curse, as it is written, “For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel.”

34) And Laban worked against Jacob with all ten kinds of soothsaying and magic from the illumination of the lower Ketarim but could not overcome him, since Laban had made them all against him and he did not succeed in harming him, as it is written, “and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.” And it is written, “unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray.” Counting are kinds,(2) and ten kinds are of soothsaying and magic in the lower Ketarim of the Klipot, and Laban had made them all against him.

35) They are ten kinds: “divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or one that consults a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer,” thus ten. And it seems as though he considers soothsaying as two kinds, since it is in plural tense [in Hebrew].

36) Divination and charm are two kinds, and they count as one degree. And when Balaam came up against Israel, he used divination, as it is written, “divination in their hand.” But against Jacob, Laban came with an enchantment, but he did not succeed, as it is written, “For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel.”

37) Balaam said to Balak, “Who can defeat them,” since all the divination and charms in our Ketarim from the illumination of the upper Malchut are crowned, and he, ZA, is tied to them in Israel, as it is written, “the Lord his God is with him, and the shouting for the King is in him.” This is why we cannot defeat them with our charms.

38) God forbid that Balaam knew something of the upper Kedusha [Holiness], since the Creator did not want any nation or tongue to use His name but only His Holy sons, Israel.

39) Those who are impure, impurity is made for them to be made impure. It is written about them, “he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his dwelling be,” outside of Kedusha. And the impure calls upon the impure, as it is written, “and shall cry: ‘Unclean, unclean.’” This is because one who is impure calls upon the impure; every thing leans toward its own kind.

40) And is it fitting for Jacob, who was holy, to say that he was defiled by Laban and his charms? Perhaps it is considered a praise for him, for he said, “I have sojourned with Laban”? It is written, “I am Esau thy first-born.” And we should ask if it is appropriate for one as righteous as Jacob to change his name for the name of one how is impure? The answer is that in the Anochi [I am], the Taam [special pronunciation of the text] there is a stop, because there is a Pashta [a Taam that marks a stop] under the Anochi, and a Zakef Katon [a less noticeable stop then the Pashta] under “Esau thy first-born.” Their pronunciation separates the word “I am” from “Esau thy first-born,” and this means that he said, “I am”, who I am, but Esau is your first-born.

41) “And I have oxen, and asses,” meaning do not aim your heart and desire to that blessing that my father blessed me, to think that it came true in me. He blessed me, “Be lord over thy brethren, and thy mother’s sons will bow down to thee.” Because of that I tell you, “Your servant Jacob, unto my lord Esau. He blessed me with plenty of grain and wine, but it did not come true in me because I did not treasure them. Rather, “And I have oxen, and asses and flocks, and men-servants,” a shepherd in the field. He blessed me with the dew of the heaven and the oils of the earth. But it did not come true in me. I only sojourned with Laban as a stranger who had no home. It is even more so with the oils of the earth—it did not come true in me for I had no land; I only sojourned with Laban. And he said all that only so he would not look upon Jacob and envy him for the blessings and will complain about him.

This is why he said, “I have sojourned with Laban.” Not because he was vaunting about it before Esau. On the contrary, he mentioned it in condemnation, to prove to him that he was a stranger, without a land and without a home. And the reason he brings as proof the “I am Esau, your first-born,” is to prove to him that everything follows the intention and it is not considered that he sinned that he named himself with the name of an impure one. Here, too, he intended only to disgrace, and it is not considered that he sinned if it seems from the words that he was vaunting about his joining an impure man.

42) It is written about Jacob, “a quiet [in Hebrew—whole] man, dwelling in tents.” He is called a whole man because he dwells in two upper abodes, which are Bina and Malchut, Rachel’s tent and Leah’s tent, and he complements to this side and to that side, since he decides between the right line and the left and complements them. And when he said, “I have sojourned with Laban,” he did not say that he was defiled by the charms of Laban, but rather, “I have sojourned with Laban,” to show that his heart was whole, in gratitude for the grace and truthfulness that the Creator had done with him. The entire world knew of the deeds of Laban, and who could be spared from his complaints? And he wanted to destroy me, and the Creator saved me from his hand. It is for this reason that he said, “I have sojourned with Laban.” It was all so that Esau would not envy him for the blessings, so he would not think that they came true in him, and will not be vengeful toward him. It is written about that, “For the ways of the Lord are right,” and it is written, “Thou shall be whole-hearted with the Lord thy God.”


(1) In Hebrew, the word Oved can mean both wandering and destroying.

(2) Count and Kind (in plural tense) are two very similar words in Hebrew with only the Vav being replaced by a Yod.

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