“Arami oved Avi” is one of the hardest phrases in the Torah to translate as the words are obscure and the grammar is opaque. Who is the Aramean? What does “oved” mean and who does it refer to? And who is “avi” – which forefather does this refer to?

One plausible explanation, which fits in with the original text, is that Jacob, our father, was a wandering Aramean, who migrated to Egypt (Seforno). Another is that he was a “poor” Aramean (Ibn Ezra). Or perhaps the Aramean in question was Abraham (Rashbam)?

In the context of the Haggadah, though, it can only mean something entirely different: That Lavan, the Aramean, wanted to destroy Jacob (Rashi and Sifri).

We know this because the passage is brought as a proof of the previous paragraph, which claimed that in every generation, someone tries to destroy the Jewish people. Lavan’s actions, the author states, were worse than Pharaoh’s, because while the Egyptian wanted to kill all the males, Lavan wanted to destroy an entire people (by destroying the head of the family tree, Jacob). 

haggadah Section: Cover
Source: Original