These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #171, The Prohibition Against Flattery. Good Shabbos!
Putting the Value of Money into Proper Perspective
The verse says, “Yaakov returned and remained by himself” [Bereishis 32:25]. Rabbi Eliezer explains that Yaakov went back because “he left over some small vessels.” The Talmud derives from Rabbi Eliezer’s teaching that the property of the righteous is dearer to them than their bodies [Chulin 91a]. The Talmud explains that the righteous do not partake of stolen property. A righteous person is aware that property is a gift from G-d. When a person receives a gift from G-d, large or small, he has an obligation to treat it as something significant.
However, there appears to be an inconsistency in Yaakov’s behavior. When Yaakov went down to Egypt, the verse tells us that he took all the wealth that he inherited in the Land of Canaan [46:6]. Rash”i there infers that he gave all the wealth that he received (from Lavan) in Padan Aram to Esav, in exchange for Esav’s burial plot in the Me’aras HaMachpela. Yaakov felt that property gained outside of Israel was not worth retaining.
However, the “small vessels” which Yaakov returned to retrieve in this week’s portion were also acquired in Chutz L’Aretz [Outside the Land (of Israel)]. (“…For I crossed over this Jordan River with (only) the staff in my hand…” [32:11] [when leaving the Land, thus implying that all of his property was acquired outside]).
Why does Yaakov risk his life to retrieve them, if a short time later he is ready to part with all the property that he acquired from Lavan? What is the story? Is Yaakov careful with his money or not?
The Menachem Zion explains that the righteous know that money comes from G-d, and therefore they will not abandon or abuse it. However, compared to a mitzvah, or anything spiritual, money becomes valueless. Yaakov would never abandon property without reason. But when Yaakov has the opportunity to be buried in the burial plot of his father and grandfather — with Avraham and Yitzchak — then his attitude is that money has no value.
A person must certainly value money. But he must know that there is a hierarchy of values and everything is relative. Nothing is as important as spirituality.
“Who Are These Children?” — A Strange Question by Eisav
When Esav meets Yaakov and his wives and children, Esav inquires “Who are these to you?” [Bereishis 33:5]
This is a strange question. When one has not seen someone for 20 years, it is not unusual that during this time the person may have married and had children. Upon greeting the person for the first time in 20 years, and seeing that he is accompanied by a number of children, is it appropriate to ask “who are these children”?
The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer explains the dialog between Yaakov and Eisav:
Eisav asked, “What are you doing with all these? I thought we made a division — I would take This World and you would take the World to Come? If so, what are you doing with children? Children are a function of This World.
Yaakov responded, “these are the children that G-d graciously provided to your servant. (In other words, children are included in the World to Come.) That is why I have children.”
We thus have a dispute here between Eisav and Yaakov, concerning whether children are a function of Olam HaZeh or Olam HaBa, of This World or the World to Come. If we have a dispute, there must be a practical difference. What is that difference here?
The practical difference is that if someone views children as a function of this world, he believes that the purpose of children is to make life easier. Those who lived two or three hundred years ago in an agrarian economy had many children, because every extra pair of hands on the farm meant an easier life.
Modern man has become a little more progressive. He has moved off the farm and does not have such a need for children anymore. He sees that children can not help him. As a matter of fact he has made a startling revelation: Children are a tremendous pain! They cost money and bother and aggravation. Who needs children?
Modern man can even believe that children can be replaced… if one needs companionship, let him get a dog! Dogs are wonderful. He can come home, after a tiring day, to a house full of crying children. This one has not done his homework. This one is sick. This one is nudging. Or, he can come home to a dog. The dog will run to him. It will be happy to see him. The dog may be the first being that has been happy to see him the entire day. So if a person wants Olam Hazeh, he does not have children; he has dogs! This is the attitude of Eisav.
Yaakov, on the other hand, understands that the purpose of children is not for enjoying this world or for making our lives easier. The purpose of children is that children, like all of us, have souls. Those souls need to somehow make their way to Olam HaBa. The only way that a soul can ever get to the World to Come is by spending even the smallest amount of time in This World. Every child that a person has — whether the child lives to 120 be”H [with G-d’s help], or if G-d forbid he doesn’t live long; whether he is productive or not so productive — the only way that soul will ever arrive in the Next World is if it is brought into This World first.
That is what children are all about — following G-d’s desire to take a soul, try to improve the soul and see that the soul makes it to Olam HaBa.
Rav Matisyahu Solomon says that this is the interpretation of the verse: “May the L-rd, G-d of your fathers, add to you like yourselves a thousand times over, and Bless you as he spoke to you” [Devorim 1:11]. Rash”i comments that the Jewish people complained that Moshe was putting a limit on this blessing (only a thousand times!), because G-d had already promised that their children would be “like the dust of the earth which cannot be counted because of its multitude” [Bereishis 32:13]. Moshe responded, “this is my own personal blessing; but G-d will in fact bless you as he has promised.”
The Chasam Sofer explains that Moshe was saying, “if you want to merit the blessing of G-d, you have to appreciate children. When I told you that you would have children 1000 times over, that was a test to see your reaction. Had your reaction been, ‘that’s enough already,’ I would have been disappointed. You reacted the right way — every child is a blessing; every child is Olam HaBa; every child is the greatest thing that G-d can give us. Therefore, since I see that you do appreciate children, you will in fact merit G-d’s blessing of having an infinite number of children.”
Olam HaZeh / HaBa — This / The Next World
Sources and Personalities
Rash”i — (1040-1105) Rav Shlomo ben Yitzchok; Troyes and Worms, France.
Menachem Zion — Rabbi Menachem Ben-Tzion Zachs; Israel.
Chasam Sofer — (1762-1839) Rav Moshe Sofer/Schreiber; Hungarian Jewish Rabbinical leader; Pressburg (today’s Bratislava).
Rav Matisyahu Solomon — Mashgiach Ruchni, of Yeshiva Beth Medrash Gavoha, Lakewood, N.J.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#171). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: The Prohibition Against Flattery. The other halachic portions for Parshas Vayishlach from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
- Tape # 033 – Nitel Nacht
- Tape # 075 – Tombstones
- Tape # 124 – The Noachide Laws
- Tape # 217 – Terrorism: How May an Individual Respond?
- Tape # 261 – Elective Surgery and Milah on Thursdays
- Tape # 307 – The Difficult Childbirth
- Tape # 351 – Tefilas Haderech
- Tape # 395 – Free Will vs. Hashgocha Pratis
- Tape # 439 – Executing a Ben Noach based On His Admission
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:
Yad Yechiel Institute
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through your local Hebrew book store or from Project Genesis, 1-410-654-1799.