Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” — Genesis 28:20–22
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
There is a Yiddish story written about an orange called The Morantz. The story takes place in Russia during the 1800s, where oranges were a rare treasure. One day, during the Purim festival, a family received an orange as a gift. On that day, all the villagers gathered round to behold the beautiful sight of the brightly colored, perfectly rounded, God-made fruit. On the second day, the villagers gathered to smell the pleasant aroma of the fragrant fruit. On the third day, they peeled the fruit, being careful to save every piece of the peel so that they can make marmalade from it. On the fourth day, they divided and ate the fruit, savoring the flavorful juices. The people were filled with joy. They had marmalade that lasted for weeks and memories to last a lifetime.
Now, that’s how you eat and enjoy a piece of fruit!
The blessing of the times that we are living in is that there is incredible abundance around us. Produce from all over the world, no longer a rare delicacy, is now readily available at the nearest grocery store and at all times of the year. The challenge of our times is to appreciate all that we have. When there is so much available, we can get caught up in wanting so much more than we need. If all we had was one orange to last for months, we would enjoy that orange so much more. Today, when we eat an orange, we sometimes don’t even really taste it.
We need to savor our oranges and every other blessing that comes into our lives.
In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob asked God for three things as he left his homeland: protection, food, and clothing. That’s all that Jacob needed to be content. He didn’t ask for riches or delicacies. He didn’t ask for conveniences or servants. He asked only for the basics because that’s all he would need to have a happy, full, and productive life.
Ultimately, God did prosper Jacob, and he became a very wealthy man. However, Jacob never forgot his humble beginnings nor his appreciation for the small things in life — and neither should we. Whether we are in a season of abundance or a season of drought, we can and we must savor all God’s blessings. The trick is that once we know how to appreciate the small things in life, we will know how to fully enjoy the greater blessings in our lives.
Today, know that if we have a shirt on our backs and food to eat, that’s enough to be joyful. Even if the only food we have right now is nothing but a single orange.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President