Rabbi Frand On Parshas Devarim
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Don’t Flaunt It
“You have enough, circle the mountain, and turn to the north (tzafonah).” (Devarim 2:3)
The Kli Yakar lived during a time when the Jews enjoyed prosperity, and he did not approve of the way they dealt with it. He urged them to be more discreet, to keep a low profile and not draw attention to themselves with ostentatious lifestyles.
He supported his exhortation with a homiletic interpretation of Moshe’s words to the Jewish people. “You have enough, circle the mountain, and turn to the north (tzafonah).” The word tzafonah can also be translated as “the hidden.” In other words, you have enough material things. Now hide them! If you’ve got it, you don’t have to flaunt it!
Eisav has a long memory, writes the Kli Yakar. Whenever he sees Yaakov prosper, he believes with all his heart that it is only because of the blessings that he believes Yaakov stole, the blessings that should have gone to Eisav.
Yaakov himself was already worried about this. When famine struck all of the Middle East, everyone was forced to run to Egypt, the only place where large stockpiles of food existed. It was the only way to avoid starvation.
Yaakov’s pantry, however, was well stocked with food, and his family could have gone a long time without a trip to Egypt. Nonetheless, Yaakov sent them to buy food. “Lamah tisra’u?” he said. “Why should you show off?” According to Rashi, Yaakov was concerned about the children of Eisav and Yishmael. Why should they see that you have plenty of food while they are starving? That would be a foolish thing to do.
Living in the United States, which is so liberal, so tolerant, we tend to forget this important lesson. Regardless of how benign American society is, it is still exile. We still live among non-Jews, not all of whom share the full measure of tolerance which has made this country the superpower that it is today. We still need to watch our step. If we have been blessed with prosperity — money, real estate, nice homes, automobiles and clothing — there is no need to flaunt our wealth.
“Why do you show off?” said Yaakov. It is impolite. It is unwise. It is even dangerous.
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Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.