He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. — Genesis 32:13–15
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.
According to Jewish tradition, Jacob acquired 5,500 animals while working for Laban. From that, he gave one-tenth – 550 animals – to his brother Esau as a peace offering. This percentage is no accident. Ten percent of those animals didn’t belong to Jacob anyway.
When Jacob left his father’s home, he made a promise to God. In keeping with what would later become an official biblical law, Jacob committed to giving a tenth of his profits to charitable causes: “and of all that you give me I will give you [God] a tenth” (Genesis 28:22). But for whatever reason, Jacob did not tithe his property while working for Laban. Now, instead of parting with his assets for the sake of charity, Jacob ended up losing his property to Esau – a far less attractive cause!
We all know that we should be charitable and share our money with others. But that’s not always so easy to do. It’s our money after all, we think. Shouldn’t we get to enjoy it? But God says: “The silver is mine and the gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8). None of our earthly possessions actually belongs to us. Everything belongs to God, and we are to use what He has graciously given to us appropriately.
There was once a man who learned a valuable lesson while waiting in an airport. The man had checked his bags, bought himself a snack and a magazine, and sat down to wait. As he opened his magazine and reached for a cookie, he was surprised to find another hand in the bag. The woman sitting next to him was eating his food!
He was too polite to say anything and so he kept quiet even though the woman continued to help herself to his snack. She didn’t even leave him the last cookie – instead, she broke it in half, smiled, and kept half for herself. How rude! Just then, the man’s flight was called. As he prepared to board the plane, he opened up his bag to get his boarding pass – and found his bag of cookies, unopened and untouched. He had been eating the woman’s cookies all along, while she had kindly shared!
There are many lessons to be learned from this story. One of them is that knowing who the owner is makes all of the difference. If we see ourselves as the true owners of our assets, then we may resist sharing them with God — and others. But when we realize that everything belongs to Him, we will jump at the opportunity to share.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President