”Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” — Genesis: 33:11
The Torah portion for this week, Vayishlach, which means “and he sent,” is from Genesis 32:4—36:43, and the Haftorah is from Obadiah 1:1–21.
Jacob sent his brother Esau extremely generous gifts in hopes of winning his friendship, even though the two had been enemies for years. Thankfully, Esau reacted positively to the gesture. Not only did he extend his hand in friendship, but he even declined to take any of Jacob’s possessions.
Esau: “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9).
Jacob insisted: “Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.”
At first glance, it seems that the brothers were saying the same thing: “You keep the gifts – I don’t need them!” And while both men acted admirably, there is something profoundly different in what each one said. Esau said, “I have enough;” Jacob said, “I have everything.”
What’s the difference? Having enough implies that while I’m fine with what I have in life, there is always room for more. I would prefer more. But having everything means that I have exactly what I need. I don’t need less and I don’t need more. God has given me exactly what I need to succeed in the place I am in my life right now. My cup is already full and I feel truly blessed.
The Jewish sages teach: “Who is a wealthy man? He who is satisfied with his lot.” What we have doesn’t determine how wealthy we are; how we perceive what we have, does.
Today we live in a society where the average person enjoys a standard of living that exceeds what the wealthiest people enjoyed just a century ago. But does the average man feel exceedingly blessed? Unfortunately not. We are constantly reminded by billboards and ads of how much we still lack. Though we might acknowledge that we have enough, few people feel that they have everything.
Several years ago, superstorm Sandy was a devastating hurricane that not only changed the New York coastline; it also brought out a side of New York that does not fit with the stereotype. Suddenly the ambitious dollar-driven city that never sleeps slowed down – friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, bonded together to share food and shelter. Amid horror stories of loss, came uplifting stories of the human spirit. Now that is everything!
It shouldn’t take a hurricane or cataclysmic event to remind us of what we have. Look around you and notice your many blessings. We have freedom. We have abundance. We have each other.
We have everything!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President