Vayishlach 5778 – I Have Everything

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In Parshas Vayishlach, we read about the impending meeting of Yaakov and Esav. It was a family reunion of sorts, having not seen each other in quite some time. Yaakov is gripped with fear about seeing his brother and sent malachim to Esav to gauge his mood. The malachim return to him and report that Esav is on his way, and he has 400 men in tow. Yaakov is petrified, but Hashem assures him that all will be fine. When they finally meet, their sophomoric, brotherly squabbles seem to have subsided because they embrace each other and cry. The 400 men that had come along with Esav had dispersed. Yaakov prepares an impressive goodie bag for his brother Esav, in order to please him so he won’t want to kill him. When we last saw these two characters interacting with each other, Esav was planning to kill his twin brother after he cunningly and craftily “stole” the bechora away. When they meet, Esav tells Yaakov to take back his gift because “Yesh li rav”/I have plenty.” Rashi comments that Esav had more than he’d ever need. Yaakov responds to him “take the gift which has been been brought to you because Hashem has shown grace and I have everything.” Esav acquiesced, and kept what had been given to him by his brother. Rav Shlomo Wolbe in his monumental work, Alei Shur, has a fascinating insight on what has just transpired. Esav, whose entire life was steeped in materialism, only allowed himself to say that he has plenty. Rav Wolbe mentions that despite such a person continuously gaining more and more, they will never feel that they have enough. There is always more to obtain. This echoes a sentiment by our sages, who tell us that a person who has one hundred, always wants two hundred. Similarly, the Midrash in Koheles Rabbah points out that a person doesn’t leave this world with even half of what they desire!

On the other hand, we have Yaakov Avinu who was not only completely satisfied with what he had, but had no interest in amassing more possessions. That is the reason that he is able to state “I have everything.” If one’s frame of mind is “I have 100 but I want 200,” they’ll continue to want, and their lust will not be satisfied. Yet, if one employs the approach of Yaakov, “I have 100 and I will make do with 100,” they will be blessed. This is a fundamental point in the difference between the words of Yaakov and the words of Esav, having it all versus having all I need.

Rav Wolbe continues in Alei Shur with a Gemara in Bava Basra (16b) tells us that three people were given a taste of Olam Haba while still in Olam Hazeh: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. For what did Yaakov Avinu merit this? The Gemara explains that is because of our very pasuk: Yeish Li Kol. Yaakov Avinu realized that he has everything he needs. This, says Rav Wolbe is something we can incorporate into our everyday lives as well. Every morning, we thank Hashem and recite the bracha of “she’asa li kol tzorki” for providing for all of our needs.

A few years ago, there was a fascinating article that circulated around the internet about a former NFL football player named Jason Brown. Brown was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens (boo) and played there for a few years before moving to the St. Louis Rams, and played relatively well. When his contract expired in 2012, Brown’s agent was fielding offers from numerous teams interested in signing him. He had a $37.5 million contract ready to be signed and he walked away from it. Jason Brown bought a 1000 acre farm in North Carolina, and with the help of some agricultural geniuses, now owns and operates the First Fruits Farm. Brown’s farm is more than about sustaining himself and his family, and as the name entails, he gives his first fruits to charity (and then some). Brown said that while it was a lot of money to be left on the table, the money is not what’s important. He more than enough to live on and took from what he had and gave back, and continues to feed the needy all over his state. Sure, he had already gotten plenty of paychecks, and his circumstances are different than most of ours. Nevertheless, it’s still a message that we can internalize. Let us live our lives in the same way, the way as prescribed in the Pirkei Avos. The Mishnah states “Eizehu ashir hasomeyach bechelko/Who is rich? one who is happy with his lot.” One who is truly wealthy looks around at their life and says I have everything I need (that doesn’t mean that we would be unhappy with more, but we make do with what we have). We must take the mahalach of Yaakov Avinu and be thankful for what we are blessed with, and try not to yearn for things that we do not.

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