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Parshas VaYeishev - What Really Counts?

By BJLife/Rabbi Binyamin Zedner

Posted on 12/06/17

This week's Parshah opens וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃ And Yaakov settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.


Our sages teach us that Yaakov's problems with Yosef began after this because he “settled” in this world. Yaakov thought he was done with all his trials and tribulations in life and now he could settle and enjoy the rest of his life in peace. This was a false notion because one must always grow in life and cannot stagnate. When one stagnates he automatically goes down. Picture a fish, when you see if flowing downstream you know it is dead, but a live fish will have to swim forward even to remain in the same spot. As the popular saying goes “no pain, no gain”.


The Midrash says a similarl story. A student of the holy Rav Shimon Bar Yochai left Israel to make some money. When he came back later as a rich man, all the other students got a little envious. They too wanted to be rich. If they had money they can study Torah in peace! When Rav Shimon Bar Yochai saw this he told his students follow me. He went to a valley and made it fill with gold coins (you know cool kabbalistic stuff). He then told his students, save yourselves the time, just take the money from here. They said Rabbi, what's the fine print? Rav Shimon responded that any gold you take from here comes off your world to come.


But why is this true? Why if no pain, no gain? Why does the gold here take away from my gold there? Let me enjoy my life and grow and have Olam Haba too! The answer comes from last week's Parshah. Yaakov told Esav יש לי כל, I have everything that I need. Everything that I need Hashem provided even if it seems like a little. If I want more than what I have I think I know better than Hashem. And if we “force” Hashem to give it to us it causes more harm than good.


When Yaakov was originally escaping from Esav and was on his way to Lavan, Esav sent his son, Elifaz, to kill Yaakov. Yaakov convinced Esav’s son not to kill him but instead to take all his money because a pauper is like a dead man walking. But how did this work? Esav said kill not rob? The answer is that Elifaz was only doing what Esav taught him, money is everything, so when Yaakov told Elifaz take my money, Elifaz agreed that a pauper is like a dead person and he learned that from none other than Esav. But still that shouldn't have been enough. Esav said kill! Our sages say this is because Elifaz grew up on Yitzhak’s lap and that had an effect on him. The love he got from his grandfather made him unable to kill Yaakov.


We should all have the zechut to understand and to teach our children what really counts in life and to show them love that can take them a far way.