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The Test of Success

“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rocks
    and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
    ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
    and make your nest among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,”
       declares the LORD.
— Obadiah 1:3–4

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.

Perhaps you’ve had a friend who was struggling with poverty. Out of your concern for that person, you prayed for him, commiserated with him, and did what you could to help. However, when’s the last time you worried about a wealthy friend? How many times have we prayed for them out of concern for their well-being? In Proverbs 30:8 we read, “give me neither poverty nor riches . . .”

Both poverty and riches are serious life tests, and we have to be constantly on guard for both.

In this week’s Haftorah, we read about the frightening prophecy regarding the end of the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau. In the Bible, Edom is described as a strong nation, a people who were proud and thought themselves invincible: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’” However, God promised to bring them down from their high places: “‘Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the LORD.”

This message for Edom is also a message for us. When we are living “in the clefts of the rocks,” in relative security, and when we build our “home on the heights,” seemingly out of harm’s way, it’s easy to forget God. As it is written in Proverbs, “I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’” (30:9). The test of wealth threatens to separate us from God and incur His wrath. However, just as with any test, the test of wealth can also bring us closer to Him and invoke His love.

In Song of Songs 2:14, God calls out to those living in the “clefts of the rocks.” He says, “show me your face, let me hear your voice.” In essence, God is saying that when we are doing well, we need to come to Him. When things are going great, we need to praise Him, thank Him, and remain close to Him. In fact, the more we succeed in life, the more we need to lean on God. The more we achieve, the more we need to cling to God so that we don’t forget Him, or God forbid, fall away from Him.

Today, let’s take a look at our blessings and express our gratitude for them. Let us never forget from where they have come and how quickly they can be taken away. No one is invincible and all of us are vulnerable. Let us be humbled and encouraged knowing that God is our only provider – both in our times of need and in our times of success.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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