"Yaakob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn"
Yaakob Abinu a'h survived his encounter with Laban only to face his wicked
brother Esav. Since the animosity that Esav felt had not subsided in the 20
years since Yaakob fled to Haran to marry and build a family, Yaakob
prepared for war. Prayer, strategy and bribery were the three elements of
his defense. Firstly, he prayed to Hashem to protect him as He had promised
on Har Hamoriah the night Yaakob slept there and dreamt his "ladder dream".
He then split his camp into two so that should Esav encounter one camp the
other could flee to safety and insure the survival of the Jewish people.
Lastly, he sent to his brother an entourage bearing gifts of cattle and
valuables in order to bribe his brother and to get him to forgive and forget.
Under the cover of dark Yaakob ferried his family and possessions across a
river called Nahal Yabok, in order to place a body of water between his
camp and his brother's soldiers. After completing the transfer, Yaakob went
back across and was left alone on Esav's side of the river. Rashi cites the
Talmud's interpretation. Yaakob had forgotten some small earthenware jugs
and risked his life to go back into danger to retrieve them. The Sages
comment: "From here we learn "to the righteous, their money is dearer to
them than their bodies." Since the honest person struggles to earn every
penny without deception the money that he earns is dear to him.
Of course, our Rabbis are not suggesting that one risk one's life for even
significant amounts of material wealth. Their intent is that to the
righteous, the spiritual use of honestly earned money has a value that
should not be treated with indifference.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt'l wrote that every moment of life is a precious
opportunity for spiritual achievement and therefore, a person should be
very particular about the use of every minute of time. One, he proposed,
should minimize the amount of time spent on acquisition of the things of
this world. The Hafetz Hayim said, "Many feel time is money when in fact
money is time." If a person squanders materialistic possessions, one will
then be forced to expend more precious time from his or her life to acquire
more to sustain them self.
Rav Hasda was a wealthy sage in the times of the Gemara. When he would walk
through an area where there were thorn bushes, he would lift his robes
exposing his legs to the painful scratches and cuts of the thorns rather
than allow his robe to become damaged. If he was rich why would he subject
himself to pain rather than let the garment rip? He too realized that this
would cost him TIME -- the time it would take to earn the money to buy
another robe. He chose to suffer physical pain rather than lose a moment
latent with potential for spiritual growth. [Baba Kamma 91B]
There is a remez -- a hint -- to this attitude in the message that Yaakob
Abinu sent to Esav. He enumerated the wealth he had earned while in the
employ of his father-in-law Laban --"Vayehi lee shor, v'hamor..." ["I have
acquired oxen and donkeys..."]. The Gemara explains that the word "Vayehi"
indicates sorrow [Megillah 10B]. Yaakob was hinting to Esav --The wealth I
have accumulated causes me sorrow when I think of the time I had to invest
in order to get it." His preference was for spiritual achievement not
We too must learn from our Patriarchs and Sages. Everyone was created with
a mission. The goal is to create a beautiful abode for eternity in the
World to Come. The most important tool we were blessed with to perfect our
eternal home -- is TIME. Every moment in this world is an opportunity to
earn untold spiritual wealth for one's future. The righteous knew that one
must survive and support themselves while here in this world -- but they
felt sorrow over every moment they had to waste in the pursuit of survival.
One should take this lesson and make it one's credo -- "No price can be set
on my possessions -- they cost me time to acquire." Keep what you have.
Preserve your time wisely. You will become rich -- forever!