Parasha Vayishlach


Parasha Vayishlach

In our Parasha Vayishlach, we read about Jacob, after a long exile in a foreign land returning to Israel.  Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau, who has a grudge against him in his heart since the dawn of their days.  In an attempt to reach reconciliation with Esau, Jacob sends him gifts of hundreds of sheep and cattle from his numerous herds, a gift that reached Esau even before the two met.  The gifts that Jacob sent succeeded in their mission, and when he finally meets Esau, Esau begs him to take back his gifts:

“And Esau said: my Brother, I have a lot, may it be yours!” (Genesis 3:9)

Jacob, on the other hand, begs him to accept these gifts, addressing him with the following words:

“And Jacob said, No please! If, please, I have found favor in your eyes, and take my offering from my hand… because I am gracious to God, and because I have all...”

There is a small difference between the wording that Esau uses to describe his multiple assets, and the wording that Jacob uses; Esau uses the words: “I have a lot”, while Jacob says: “I have all”.  If we were to compare Jacob’s attitude to Esau’s at first glance, we would certainly describe Jacob’s statement as somewhat boastful, in that he has everything, while Esau’s statement reflects a certain modesty: he acknowledges that he has many assets, but he is not pretending to say he has it all.

However, the biblical commentator “Kli Yakar” (Prague, 17th century), found precisely the opposite in this parallel and says:

“When we delve deeper into Esau’s expression – “I have a rabbi”, we discover that it’s an expression of missing of something.  Esau, who had a very large fortune, does not feel that he has all his needs, but that he has many of his needs.  Jacob, on the other hand, sees in his wealth the satisfaction of his full needs, and he lacks nothing more”.

In these two ways, Jacob and Esau express two approaches in relation to what a person accumulates in life.  A person can look at what he has and always see the ‘glass half empty’ – what he still lacks.  This attitude causes a person to never feel a sense of satisfaction and joy, because even when he accumulates profit or experiences happy events in his life, they are always accompanied by a sense of lack.

Jacob’s way, on the other hand, is to see the fortune he has accumulated, the status he has acquired and the family he has won, as a gift from God, and an expression of all his needs at this point in his life, and in Jacob’s words: “Because God has favored me, and I have everything!”  This approach brings great joy and satisfaction to a person’s life, and beyond that, it gives a person the ability to fully experience the joyful events and people in his life.

At the end of the ‘”Bircat Hamazon’, which is customary after every meal that includes bread, it is customary to ask God for the following request:

The Merciful will bless us just as our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were blessed , ‘in all’ ‘from all’ ‘all’ – so will he bless us together with a complete blessing…

The words “in all, from all, all” appear three times for the three fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with all three of whom the word “all” was said in different variations, in relation to the abundance they had in their lives.

After eating and feeling food, we are asking G-d to help us live our lives from an attitude of “I have everything” and being able to appreciate the real key to happiness.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Refael Cohen

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