The passuk states when one brings bikkurim he says the words ארמי אובד אבי as part of expressing his appreciation. Onkelos translates these words as “Lavan the Arami wanted to destroy my father.” The Nesina LaGer brings this is as we say in the haggada of Pesach ולבן בקש לעקור את הכל, and Lavan wanted to uproot everything. Who did Lavan try to uproot, and where do we find that Lavan tried to uproot everything?
Rashi explains this refers to the time that Yaakov left Lavan’s house with his entire family and all their possessions, and Lavan chased after Yaakov to destroy him. Hashem came to Lavan in a dream and warned him, “Do not do anything to Yaakov whether good or bad.” If not for Hashem warning Lavan not to harm Yaakov, he would have killed him, and it would have been the end of Klal Yisrael.
Rashi adds that since Lavan plotted to destroy Yaakov, Hashem considered it as though he actually did destroy him, because by non-Jews a bad thought is treated as though an action was done. Tosfos adds that if a non-Jew planned on doing a mitzvah and was unable to perform it, it is not considered as though it was performed, and he will not receive its reward. By Yidden it is the exact opposite, Hashem does not consider a bad thought of a Yid as though an action was done. And if a Jew planned on doing a mitzvah and he was unable to perform it, it is considered as though he fulfilled it.
Why is a Yid’s bad thought not considered an action, whereas a non-Jews thought is considered an action? And why is a Yid’s thought to perform a mitzvah considered as though he fulfilled the mitzvah, whereas a non-Jews thought is not considered an action?
The answer is that there is an inherent difference between a Yid and a non-Jew. A Yid has a yeitzer tov which causes him to do good, and the yeitzer harah contends and tries to overcome him. The Maharal says that if a Yid decides to do good, Hashem will help him do it, whereas if a Yid thinks to do bad, Hashem will not help him. Therefore when a Jew plans on doing a mitzvah and doesn’t, he definitely wanted to do it, and this which he didn’t succeed was accidental. He must have been unable to perform it, and will receive reward. Also when a Jew plots to do bad, he does not completely commit to actually doing it; deep down he sincerely wants to do good, and therefore he is not punished as though he did it.
However a non-Jew acts with heifkairus, he does whatever he wishes without accepting any authority. This is as the Mishnah teaches: A Yid cannot be alone with a non-Jew because they are suspected of killing, and a woman can’t be alone with a non-Jew because they are suspected of immorality. Therefore when a non-Jew plots to do bad, he is completely committed and sincere, and if it does not come to fruition, it must have been that he was unable to do it. Also when a non-Jew plans on doing a mitzvah, and doesn’t, he did not completely decide to do it, and so only after he actually does it will he receive reward.
May we recognize the uniqueness of Yiddin over non-Jews, who constantly strive to only do good!