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Home » Vayetze

Beware the Hypocrite

Submitted by on November 26, 2022 – 8:43 pmNo Comment | 1,063 views

On his deathbed, King Yanai warned his wife Shelomtziyon to beware of the hypocrite. Fear not the Pharisee, though I have waged war against them all my life. Fear not the Sadducee, though you have waged war against them. Fear the hypocrite whose actions emulate the wicked Zimri yet they seek to be rewarded like the righteous Pinchas.

So spoke a wicked man on his deathbed. King Yanai spent his entire life embroiled in palace intrigue, political infighting, and all out war. He had many enemies and many allies. But on his deathbed, the truth bubbled forth because woe to him who clings to falsehood in his final moments. When we are about to meet our Maker, we reach our moment of truth. Don’t fear my allies, don’t fear my enemies. They will tell you who they are, and you will know their intentions. Fear the hypocrite.

In life, there are people who befriend us because they like us and there are those who befriend us for what they can get from us. They act like friends, but they are really after self gain. They are like vampires. Whatever they can take from you, they will. And when you are in need, they will leave you dry.

I speak of people. For example, your good friend who preys on your friendship to get you to extend a loan. But when it comes time to pay up, he leaves you high and dry. You are now desperate with poverty and your so-called friend is nowhere to be seen.

I speak of family relatives who prey on innocent young children desperate for love. These uncles or older “friends” befriend these children and offer them comfort, love, and support. In reality, they are cruel souls looking to suck the life spark, the love of life, and the innocent trust out of these children just for a few moments of vulgar pleasure.

When the child cries out in broken misery, engulfed in a black cloak of shame, guilt, and self loathing, these terrible fiends are nowhere to be seen. The love they offered, the support they extended, were mirages. They were never interested in the child. They cared only about themselves.

I speak also of impulses. When we are insulted or humiliated in public, our natural response is to retire to our quarters and nurse our wounds. We seek a cloak of privacy, indulge our addictions, and crawl into a cocoon of isolating warmth, closing out the world and trusting no one. We never want to be vulnerable again. Never want to be hurt again. This dark place that beckons, purports to be a friend. In reality, it is a trap. The longer we stay, the tighter is its vise, and the harder it is to escape. The longer we protect ourselves, the harder it is to reach out or break out.

How about the delicious pastry that has your name written all over it though you know you ate enough calories to last you a lifetime. Your impulses promise you the world if only you choose to indulge. It will be delicious. It will be so worth it. Except you know better. Your impulses show themselves to be your friends. They are hypocrites. Beware of the hypocrite in all of his guises.

King David
This explains why King David wrote, “G-d is for me with my helpers, and I will see my enemies.”[1] On the surface, this prayer makes little sense. Why does G-d hang with me when I am surrounded by my friends—those willing to help me—and abandon me to face my enemies on my own?

The answer is along the lines of our discussion. King David was not referring to his real helpers. His real friends. He was referring to King Yanai’s hypocrite. G-d is with me when I surrounded by those offering to help me. And with His help, I can discern who among them are really my enemies.

To Trust
You see, as we walk this treacherous path surrounded by hypocrites who seek to abuse our trust, it becomes difficult to trust. How can we ever know who is a true friend and who is the hypocrite? How can we afford to trust anyone? King David was praying for the power to discern friend from hypocrite. This results in two benefits. He will be protected from the hypocrite, and he won’t deny himself his friends.

As much as we want to be protected from the hypocrite, we must be willing to risk vulnerability. If we don’t, we grow isolated and hurt ourselves more than the hypocrite can hurt us. On the other hand, we can’t afford to be gullible and fall prey to every predator in our path. Thus, King David gives words to our universal prayer. G-d grant me the wisdom to distinguish between friend and foe.

When Jacob was travelling to his uncle Laban, he overnighted on Mount Moriah and had a dream in which G-d made many promises. Among them, that He would protect Jacob on any path he might take. The next morning, Jacob beseeched G-d, “Guard me on this path that I am taking.” Why did Jacob ask again for something G-d had already promised. Did He not trust G-d to deliver on yesterday’s promises?

The answer is the same as our answer for King David’s prayer. Yes, G-d you will protect me on all paths. If I am among friends, He will protect me. If I am among enemies, He will protect me. But I have not chosen the path of the friend, nor the path of the enemy. I have chosen to journey to the home of a hypocrite who will embrace me and call me family, and then cheat me every chance he gets.

This is my chosen path and I pray for your help. During my lonely wanderings I will be desperate and lonely. My uncle Laban will prey on this weakness and promise me the world. He will offer his hand and his heart. Give me the fortitude to resist him. He is a swindler, who will prey on my vulnerabilities. So, give me the courage to resist his charms and see through his lies. Protect me on this particular path.[2]

Why This Path?
King Yanai warned his wife to avoid the hypocrite. Kind David asked G-d to help him identify the hypocrite. Yet Jacob chose freely to sojourn in the home of a hypocrite. Why? True Laban was his uncle, but surely Jacob could have chosen a safer home than a viper’s nest.

The answer is that only a person like Jacob can stop and think about the hypocrite. We have talked a lot about protecting ourselves against the hypocrite, but what of the hypocrite? If everyone abandons them, what will become of them? Who will rehabilitate them?

Those who might fall prey to them, should never reach out to help them. But the Jacobs of this world who are strong enough to resist their wiles, wise enough to see through their charms, and generous enough to care about everyone, even the hypocrite, these people take on this necessary, but thankless task.

The hypocrite doesn’t ask to be rehabilitated and doesn’t realize that he needs help. He just wants to prey and harm. But Jacob went to Laban’s home. He stood firmly against Laban’s wiles, married both of his daughters, and gave him grandchildren. By the time Jacob left, the lonely cantankerous Laban who had not a friend in the world, had a family that loved him. Jacob rehabilitated Laban and gave him a life. They parted on good terms. They hugged and kissed because Jacob brought the hypocrite around.

In every hypocrite there is a gem just waiting to be polished. Are you courageous enough to try?

[1] Psalms 115:8.

[2] Divrei Yisraelm Genesis 28:20.