Gratitude for Gifts by Rabbi Joel Grossman


In Parashat VaYishlach, Ya’akov and Eisav use different expressions to describe what they possess. Ya’akov Avinu states “I have everything (BeReishit 33:11),” whereas Eisav says “I have plenty” (33:9). Why did each choose the phrase he did? In his Darash Moshe, Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that each was illustrating his understanding of the world in which he lived.

Let us analyze the two different world views. Rav Moshe explains that a person who truly believes in Hashem and knows that everything which he has is from Hashem should realize that whatever he has is exactly what he needs. A rich person has no more money than he should have, a poor person has no more than he should have, and a poor person has no less of what is necessary to fill his needs. While it may appear to the rich person that he has much more than he needs to provide for his family, he must realize that this is not the case. If Hashem blessed him with wealth, than that money is accompanied with more obligations. Supporting the poor and helping spread Hashem’s Torah through helping Yeshivot are not optional, but they are rather responsibilities which come with financial success. For this reason a Tzadik understands that he never has plenty, rather he has “everything,” everything he needs to fulfill his many obligations.

The wicked look at things differently than do Tzadikim. They feel that their wealth came to them solely because of their own efforts. Therefore, they do not feel that wealth brings with it any obligations. When such a person sees that he has more than is required to provide his needs, he will think that he has “plenty” because he does not accept the fact that he has any obligations other than to himself.

This was the difference between how Ya’akov and Eisav viewed life. Ya’akov Avinu understood that he had everything. He had everything he required to do the things which Hashem wanted him to do. Eisav, on the other hand, thought that he had plenty. He felt that he was free to do as he wanted with all he had and that he had more than he needed have.

We must learn to see the world as Ya’akov Avinu did. We must realize that we who have been blessed with wealth and prosperity have an obligation to build Torah in our communities and spread the word of Hashem to the best of our abilities.

This past Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday in which we Americans offer thanks to Hashem for the wonderful blessings He has bestowed upon us. In Parashat VaYeitzei, Ya’akov says to Hashem “If you give bread to eat and garments to wear… I will give you Ma’aseir from everything” (28:20-22). In his Ma’ayanei Shel Torah, Rav Alexander Friedman poses the following question: As we know, there are no extra words in the Torah. As such, why does Ya’akov refer to bread, whose only purpose is to be eaten, as “bread to eat?” Also, why are garments, which are used only as clothing, referred to as “garments to wear?” Rav Friedman answers that there are many people who own large amounts of food and clothing, but they are sick and therefore cannot benefit from their wealth. Therefore, Ya’akov Avinu told Hashem that if he is given bread and clothing and the ability to enjoy them, he will give Ma’aseir to Hashem.

May Hashem continue to bless us with materials things, may we learn from Ya’akov Avinu about our obligation to properly use our many material gifts, and may Hashem bring peace in Israel and the world so that we may enjoy the gifts we have.

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