Content with Our Lot

Yael Eckstein  |  November 17, 2021

Esau meet Jacob

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

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayishlach, which means “and he sent,” from Genesis 32:4—36:43.

Simon Ben Zoma, a Jewish sage who lived in the Holy Land during the first century, left us some wise words about wealth — wisdom that is still relevant today. He asked, “Eizeh hu ashir?,” “Who is rich?”

How would you answer that question? Who do you consider to be rich? How much money does a person need in order to be considered rich? Simon Ben Zoma didn’t list any names or numbers in his answer. He asked, “Eizeh who ashir?” “Who is rich?” and answered, “HaSameach b’chelko,” “He who is happy with his lot.”

It’s not the size of a lot that determines how wealthy a person is, but how happy a person is with the lot he or she has been given. A person can have a large lot and be poor, and a person can have a small lot and be wealthy.

There are people with plenty of money who are considered poor, because they never feel like they have enough. They are never satisfied with what they have. And there are people who don’t have a huge amount of money who are considered wealthy, because they are content with their lot and feel they lack nothing.

Content with Our Lot

We see the contrast between these two attitudes about wealth in this week’s Torah portion. When Jacob and Esau finally met after many years apart, Jacob sent a large gift to Esau of over 500 animals. Esau, in first refusing the gift which he later accepted, said, “I already have plenty, my brother” (Genesis 33:9). Esau described himself, a very wealthy man, as having plenty.

Jacob, responding to Esau and urging him to accept the gift, responded by saying “for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” The original Hebrew is yesh li kol, literally, “I have everything.”

Esau was materialistic. He thought of his wealth in terms of how much he had. He had plenty. But there’s always room for more. Jacob, in contrast, understood that his wealth was only important in terms of fulfilling his needs, as God ordained. For Jacob, possessions were only a means to provide for his family’s needs, not an end in themselves. He had “everything” because his needs were met. He had no desire for more. He was content with his lot.

God gives us everything. Wealth is not an end goal; it’s what God gives us so that we can do His will in the world.

Your Turn:

Show your gratitude to God today by thinking of ways to use your blessings for good.