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 Rashi comments regarding the opening word of this week’s Torah reading that when a righteous person departs from a community, the loss is noticeable and is damaging to that community. In most instances, the community or even the righteous person’s own family and friends, pay little attention to his or her presence while the person is amongst them. It is only when that person is no longer with them, does their true value and mettle become apparent.  And then it is usually a case of too little, too late.

Yaakov is a low profile person in his community. It is Eisav who makes the headlines, gives the interviews and media appearances. He is the outside man while Yaakov is quiet, studious, private and not obtrusive.  But communities, especially in the Jewish world, are built upon the righteousness…..the quiet Yaakovs and not on the bombast of noisy Eisavs.
I have often commented that the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed totally not because of the millions of evildoers who were their inhabitants but rather because there were not ten righteous and good people who lived in their community.
Judaism values and prizes the worth of a single individual. It never deals with numbers and majorities alone. It strives to create righteous individuals by whose mere presence alone societies are enhanced and the influence of good prevails. It is therefore sad that the value of such good people is noticed most significantly only by their departure and absence.
When Yaakov arrives at the house of Lavan, Lavan is financially impoverished. He is forced to use his daughters as his shepherds – a shameful matter in his place and time. Yaakov’s presence in Lavan’s home over the next decades will cause him to become rich and powerful. In a rare moment of candor, Lavan admits to Yaakov “that the Lord has blessed me because of you.”
All of history indicates the blessings that have occurred to countries, empires and civilizations simply because the Jewish people resided in their midst. Nevertheless, this realization does not prevent anti-Semitism and violence against Jews from being justified and encouraged. Lavan is the perfect paradigm for this warped behavior. He knows that his success is a result of Yaakov’s presence in his home and yet he pursues Yaakov and hopes to somehow destroy him. 
This paradoxical type of mindset is abundantly and clearly visible in our current world. We are cursed by others not for our actions but simply because we have the temerity to exist. Good people were not allowed to live in Sodom. Jews are not to be allowed in the Land of Israel.
The influence of good is an intolerable idea in a world committed to evil and falsehood. Yet, Spain, Portugal and Poland want the Jews to come back. Europe wants to be free of Jews but somehow to retain the presence and benefits of Jews living in its midst.  It is a warped and complicated world that we live in. Like Yaakov, there is little that we can do about it except to continue to soldier on.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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