Torah Bytes Parshat Vayetzei: Etiquette Faux Pas
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Vayetzei(Genesis 28:10-32:3)

Etiquette Faux Pas

Parshat Vayetzei tells how Jacob worked for seven years to marry his beloved Rachel. But then at the last minute, Rachel's father Lavan pulls a fast one and instead sends Rachel's older sister Leah to the chuppah, under the guise of an opaque bridal veil.

The next day, Jacob is incensed to find that he's been tricked, and when he confronts Lavan, Lavan explains that to have first married off Rachel - the younger sister - would simply not be good manners.

This is outrageous! Lavan cheated Jacob out of seven years of his life, and is now invoking the excuse of "etiquette" to justify his actions.

Let's think about our own society, and whether we sometimes also lose perspective on the difference between a gross moral crime, versus simple bad manners. Are we resigned to, even accepting of, someone who cheats in business and cheats on his wife? But look out if he should ever cut in front of me in line at the bank, or even worse - crime of all crimes - smoke in a public place!

I recall seeing a film about Nazi Germany, which depicted a military camp where teenagers were trained to kill Jews with their bare hands. And when they sat down to eat in the dining hall, the Nazi officer shouted sternly: "No crumbs! No crumbs!"

So the next time someone is doing something we find offensive, let's ask ourselves: Is this a gross moral crime, or simply bad manners? And let's keep it in perspective.

Published: December 3, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, November 25, 2014 2:08 PM

Great with a but...

Overall this is great and thanks for posting it! However, smoking in public is a legitimate health risk to everyone around. It is a serious offense.

But I think the principle you are getting at is great :) Thanks for posting this!

(2) Joe Moseri, November 28, 2011 5:33 PM

I agree with the whole thesis and being me an old asthmatic I must agree with the above above answer. Regards. Joe Mosseri

(1) Anonymous, November 24, 2009 10:52 PM

smoking in public is a crime

While i agree with your general thesis, I have to say that smoking in public is a big offense, not equal to cutting in line at all. For all people like me who suffer from asthma and other lung diseases, smoke can set off a disease episode. In my case, the mere smell of smoke can cause me to cough uncontrollably. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it is potentially life-threatening. Please consider your examples more carefully in future articles. Thank you.

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