The Torah wants us to be happy with what we have!
This week’s Torah portion is “Vayishlach” (Genesis 32:4–36:43). In it, we read about the reunion of Esau and Jacob after many years of tension and separation. In order to help diffuse the situation, including the threat that Esau made years earlier to kill Jacob, Jacob sent generous gifts to Esau in advance of their meeting — very generous, and very numerous indeed.
When Esau saw all the gifts, he said, “I have much. My brother, keep what is yours,” meaning, “No, thanks! I don’t need it. It’s not for me.”
But Jacob persisted and responded, “Please take the gift that I have given you, for God has been gracious with me and I have everything.”
The great Rabbi Yisrael Kagan, known as the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933), said that this brief dialogue between the two brothers summarizes the difference in outlook and philosophy between Esau and Jacob.
Notice how Esau says, “I have much,” but Jacob says, “I have everything”
The Chafetz Chaim says that anyone who says “I have much” will generally be an unhappy person. This is because it conveys that a person is not satisfied with what he currently has. He feels that he needs to acquire more and more…to acquire everything in the world. This person is telling us that he doesn’t have everything he needs.
The Talmud teaches: “Who is truly happy? A person who is satisfied with his lot.” This is a person who can sa,y “I have everything that I need…I am lacking nothing in life…my needs are taken care of.”
This is Jacob. Jacob realizes that he doesn’t have everything in the world, but he’s content with all that he has. He knows that he has everything he needs. A person who believes that he has all that he needs truly has “everything in the world” and needs nothing more.
Having Everything vs. Not Lacking Anything
This is reminiscent of the verse in Psalms (34:10), “Those who seek out the Lord will not be lacking any good.” The verse does NOT say that those who seek out God will have EVERYTHING! No! Nobody can have everything, no matter how pious he or she may be! The verse says that such a person “will not be lacking.”
There is a difference between “having everything” and “not lacking anything,” the latter actually being a greater blessing than the former. The greatest blessing that a person can have is a feeling that he lacks nothing in life. It is a curse to always feel that you are missing something and are unsatisfied with your current possessions.
All of us reading this are “students of Jacob,” and as such, we must teach ourselves to be “happy with our lot” and realize that everything we have is because God wants us to have it and He feels that we need it!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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