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Weekly Chizuk

PARSHAS VAYISHLACH

WHO IS RICH? HE WHO IS CONTENT

Eisav said, I have much... And Ya'akov said... I have everything. (Bereishis 33:9,11)

(Derech Emunah u'Bitachon, vol. 2, by Moreinu R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg ztzuk"l )

The Kli Yakar explains that this dialogue between Ya'akov and Eisav highlights an important difference between the righteous and the wicked. Eisav said to Ya'akov, "I have much" (Bereishis 33:9). The implication of his statement is "a lot, but not everything." On the other hand, Ya'akov replied, "For G-d has graced me and I have everything." Even when the wicked have all the gold and silver in the world, they still feel they are lacking something. True, they have a lot - but not everything that they want. The righteous, however, are just the opposite. Even when they have only a little, they are content with whatever they have and happy with their lot. No matter how many or few their possessions, they always feel as if they have everything.

Curiously, another verse seems to negate the idea that Ya'akov was indeed content with what he had. In Bereishis 32:25 we read: "And Ya'akov was left alone." Quoting Chazal, Rashi comments: "He forgot some small jars and went back to retrieve them." Strange indeed! We can understand Eisav acting in such a manner. His entire life centered around the pursuit of physical pleasures, and such a person is never satisfied - as Chazal inform us: "One who has a hundred wants two hundred" (Koheles Rabbah 1:32). It's not too difficult to imagine Eisav as a penny-pinching miser who was reluctant to forgo even the most trivial of possessions. But Ya'akov!? He was not supposed to be interested in the material world at all! Why did he feel compelled to go and retrieve a few jars that weren't worth more than a few pennies? Based on Ya'akov's behavior, the Sages explain that the righteous cherish every one of their possessions, because they are concerned about even the minutest possibility of theft (Chullin 91a). This idea, of course, needs to be studied, but even without probing further into the meaning of this statement, we can see that the greatness of tzaddikim lies in their ability to be content and happy with whatever they own. They consider everything the Almighty gives them as precious. However, with the wicked, it is just the opposite. When one's sole interest is the pursuit of more and more gold and silver, he cares precious little about the loss of a few worthless jars.

Contentment - The Basis of Torah

What is the definition of "contentment"? In Even Sheleimah (3:4), the Vilna Gaon explains that when one has more than he needs, there is no question that he feels content. However, true contentment means being completely satisfied with what one has with no desire for anything more. People fool themselves into thinking they need so many things. To be content means to be satisfied with the physical possessions one has. One who wants more than he has is suffering from "desire." The Gaon comments: "All transgression stems from 'desire'... Its opposite, 'contentment,' is the basis of the whole Torah" (ibid. 3:2). It is important to understand that when the Torah instructs us to be content with what we have, it doesn't mean that the Almighty wishes to withhold His munificence from us. Rather, it is telling us that this is the path to growth. The Talmud (Gittin 59a, Sanhedrin 36a) relates that R. Yehudah Ha-Nasi embodied the greatness of Torah and wealth together, and gives numerous examples of his incredible fortune. Yet at the time of his death, he raised his ten fingers heavenward and exclaimed, "Master of the universe! You know that I toiled with my ten fingers for Torah, and that I didn't take any enjoyment for myself [from the pleasures of this world] - not even an amount the equivalent of my smallest finger" (Kesubos 104a). R. Yehudah Ha-Nasi didn't pursue money as an end in itself - he was happy with whatever the Almighty deigned to give him. When Hashem put him in a position of great wealth, he didn't use it to satisfy his desires; he used it in the service of G d.

Of course, it is natural and completely acceptable to pursue what one needs to live. However, more than this is "desire," and this is the opposite of what the Torah expects of us. When a Jew understands this principle, he will be spared much heartache and disillusionment. It is impossible for a person to grow when he wants everything. There is no limit to the pleasures this world has to offer, and their unbridled pursuit is far from the path of Torah. Ya'akov Avinu wanted only bread to eat and a garment to wear, and when he attained this he said, "I have everything." A millionaire doesn't bother with "small jars" because he's always running after the next million. There is no limit to the hunt for more wealth, and therefore a few small jars are a joke to him. His corrupt attitude is based on a lust for money. But Ya'akov Avinu (himself fabulously wealthy) needed little to be satisfied, and he considered all he possessed as the "holy of holies," for he saw the spiritual value that is inherent in everything.

R' Zusha and the Rav

In the town of Anipoli there were two Rabbis, Rebbe Zusha the Chassid, and the town Rav, a Misnagged. R' Zusha was always happy despite the fact that he had nothing but troubles, poverty, and ill health. The Rav on the other hand, despite his honorable position in the community, was always unhappy, depressed, bitter and angry. He could not bear others, or even himself.

One night, bitter and frustrated he went to ask R' Zusha for help. He sneaked out of his house at an hour when he would not be seen and secretly made his way to the hovel which R' Zusha called home. When he arrived, the lamps were still burning, so he knocked hesitantly. Almost immediately R' Zusha appeared at the door with a smile and an invitation to enter.

"How is it that you are so happy and content and I am always angry and cursing everybody?" asked the bewildered Rav.

"Let me give you an example," offered R' Zusha. "Take the wedding of R' Moshe's daughter. When Reb Moshe, the local philanthropist, made a wedding for his daughter recently, he dispatched a messenger to personally invite the special citizens of Anipoli. When the messenger came to your house, you demanded to see the guest list. You saw that you were 14th on the list."

'"Chutzpah!' you shrieked, and decided that you would attend, but come late. When you arrived, all the guests were already sitting at the tables and eating the festive meal. When you arrived, there were no empty places to be found.

"Soon, Reb Moshe the philanthropist saw you looking for a place to sit. 'Rabbi,' he called out, 'where have you been?' He brought you to the head table, but there were no more empty places. They brought you a chair, but you sat behind somebody else. You were furious, looking for somebody to lash out at, but nobody was really paying any attention to you. The waiter did not even see you. By the time the host noticed that you were not eating, all the food was gone.

"R' Moshe went into the kitchen to find something, but there was nothing befitting the Rav of Anipoli. Everything had already been picked through. By this time you were cursing the host, the waiters, the guests, and even the bride and groom themselves. When it came time for the bentching (Grace after Meals) and the Sheva Brachos (seven blessings said after the festive meals in the presence of the bride and groom), you had been all but forgotten. You went home broken, angry, and bitter, cursing the Master of the World Himself.

"When the messenger came to the house of R' Zusha (he always referred to himself in the third person), Zusha was taken aback. What a kind gesture! Reb Moshe is inviting Zusha to the wedding of his daughter?! What has Zusha ever done to deserve an invitation to their wedding?!

"So Zusha went two hours early to the wedding. Zusha asked what he could do to help set up. Zusha officiated at the ceremony. Zusha ate a full meal. Zusha was honored with bentching and Zusha recited the Sheva Brachos."

"You see", Rebbe Zusha continued his explanation to the Rav of Anipoli, "you wanted everything, but you ended up with nothing. Zusha didn't ask for anything, but he got it all!"

Wishing Everyone A Gut Shabbos!

________________________________________
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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