Yaakov Avinu reveals an important obligation in his prayer to Hashem. " . . . for I crossed the Jordan (River) with just a staff . . ." (Bereshis 32:11). Rabbeinu Bechaye zt"l write that Yaakov Avinu is teaching us the importance of mentioning the difficult times amidst the plenty. We can get very comfortable when times are good. It is easy to forget about hardships. That is the first step toward forgetting about Hashem. Yaakov Avinu is warning us. Never forget the hard times. Then you will always remember the One who brings the good.
Kinderlach . . .
When was the last time that you were sick? Do you remember how badly you felt? Do you remember how hard you prayed to Hashem for a refuah shelaymah (complete recovery)? He answered your prayers and brought you back to health. He wants you to remember that even now. Why? Because then you will realize that He is the One Who is guarding your health. One of the reasons that we become sick is to learn to appreciate our health. Try to skip the step of getting sick, while you are healthy, and appreciate that your health is a great gift from Hashem.
"I (my merits) have been diminished by all of the kindness that You have done for me" (Bereshis 32:11). Yaakov was on his way to meet Eisav and he was concerned. Eisav still harbored feelings of resentment after Yaakov bought the birthright from him and tricked Yitzchak into giving him Eisav's blessing. Eisav had 400 men with him! Why was Yaakov fearful? Hashem would surely protect him, as He had done all of the years that he was in Lavan's house. Angels watched over him from the moment he left his home in Beer Sheva. Rashi explains that his merits were diminished by the kindness that Hashem had done for him. Merits are accumulated as a reward for good deeds. They can be used up now in the form of blessings (health, wealth, children, etc.) or they can be saved to avert future problems (war, sickness, poverty, etc.). Yaakov was concerned that all of his merits had been used up on the blessings that Hashem had showered upon him. Now when trouble was coming, he had no merits to protect him, and he would be punished for his sins. What sins were Yaakov concerned about? He was a tsaddik who had managed to keep all 613 mitzvos in the house of Lavan. He had learned Torah for 14 years (without sleeping in a bed) in the Beis HaMedrash of Shem and Ever. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l relates that Yaakov was afraid that he had wasted some of his potential. He knew that he had enormous kochos (strengths). Perhaps he did not use them to his fullest. Therefore, he might be punished at the hands of Eisav.
Kinderlach . . .
This is a powerful lesson for all of us. Do we use all of our strengths? Hashem gave us the gift of sight. Do we use it to learn Torah and to appreciate the wonders of creation? Do we use our hearing to listen to Torah lectures, or to loshon hora (G-d forbid)? Do we use our time properly, or do we waste it on non-productive things? Time is our most valuable possession. Once a moment is lost, it can never be recovered. Use you whole life for avodas Hashem, kinderlach. Then you have nothing to fear.
The two men struggled mightily. Each was very strong, a formidable opponent. On and on they fought, throughout the entire night. Neither could gain the upper hand. This was no ordinary wrestling match. This was the battle between Yaakov and the angel of his twin brother Eisav. This was the prelude of a struggle that continues to this very day. The Malbim zt"l explains that Yaakov is the power of ruchnius (spirituality) in this world. Opposing him is Eisav, the embodiment of all that is gashmius (physical). The two forces combine in the body and soul of a man. And so, the struggles continues within each individual person, to subjugate the spiritual to the physical. The same struggle exists between these two nations. When the Jewish people, the descendants of Yaakov, choose the spiritual path, observing Hashem's Torah and mitzvos properly, Edom, the descendants of Eisav, subjugate themselves. Then Hashem can give Yaakov his blessing, as it was during the days of the Beis HaMikdash, "The voice is Yaakov's and the hands are Eisav's" (Bereshis 27:22). When the Nation of Israel abandons Hashem, this gives Eisav the power to gain the upper hand. Golus (exile) and Jewish suffering are the result. Eisav's whole purpose is to take Yaakov away from Hashem by getting him involved in the gashmius. Yet, his angel was not able to succeed. Yaakov did not succumb. The spiritual overcame the physical. He gave us the power to overcome our own private battle with the Yetzer Hora. We will not give in.
Kinderlach . . .
The lure of the physical world confronts us every step of our lives. Food, clothing, job, technology, can all be used properly for Avodas Hashem (Serving Hashem). How? By allowing the ruchnius (Torah and mitzvos) to guide the gashmius. On the other hand, these things all present grave dangers when used improperly. They can easily get out of hand. Kinderlach, in these days before Moshiach, the world is teetering on the edge. We can tip the balance. Choose the ruchnius. Yaakov will prevail.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2001 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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