Vayishlach- The Attitude of the Righteous



I’m currently reading the book The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. This is a fantastic book! It’s a parable filled with nuggets regarding money. The main character, Arkad, tells his story of how he acquired wealth. I would highly recommend people read this book! The Talmud says that “Tzadikim cherish their money more than their body. Why? Because they do not extend their hands in theft (Chullin 91a)."

Yaakov headed back to Eretz Yisrael in the beginning of Parashat Vayishlach. He sent messengers ahead to Esau. He instructed them to say “Thus shall you say, To my lord Esau, thus says your servant Jacob:-b I stayed with Laban and remained until now” (Bereishit 32:5).


וַיְצַ֤ו אֹתָם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר כֹּ֣ה תֹאמְר֔וּן לַֽאדֹנִ֖י לְעֵשָׂ֑ו כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ עַבְדְּךָ֣ יַעֲקֹ֔ב עִם־לָבָ֣ן גַּ֔רְתִּי וָאֵחַ֖ר עַד־עָֽתָּה


Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz says that Yaakov’s use of the word גַּ֔רְתִּי can mean both to live, but also Yaakov is referring to his yearning to have the zechut to return to Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov learns that Esau is approaching him with 400 men. Yaakov was frightened but took action. He divided his family and flocks into two camps. He prayed to Hashem for protection, and he sent gifts to Esau to appease him.


Rashi tells us that although Yaakov carried most of his possessions over the river, he had forgotten several small jugs and went back across the river to retrieve them. While he was alone a man (Esau’s angel) wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When the man saw that he did not win against Yaakov, he hurt his hip socket. Yaakov held onto the angel and said I will not let go until you bless me. The man told him that his name would no longer be Yaakov, it would be Yisrael, meaning he struggled with the divine and human and he prevailed (Bereishit 32:25-29). Yaakov was willing to risk his life to retrieve his possessions. It shows that he valued his money over his body.


Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe says that Yaakov understood that he was given all of his possessions by G-d in order to accomplish his mission (our purpose). In fact, each of us is blessed with certain gifts in order for us to also accomplish our mission. G-d will give us all of the resources necessary- the material resources, talents, and abilities that we will need. In addition, G-d will place us in the right circumstances. The challenge is that G-d also gave us free will to choose if and how we will execute our mission. He says “Consequently the righteous cherish their money dearly and are unwilling to part with it unless there is a justifiable reason to do so. If Jacob forgot small, inexpensive, jugs on the other side of the river, he must go back to retrieve it. Abandoning what God specifically gave you is anathema to the righteous.” The righteous are not stingy with their money. In fact, they understand that they are given wealth to be a blessing to others.


In the book The Richest Man in Babylon, the main character, Arkad explains to the other men in Babylon the ways that he acquired his wealth. There are seven simple rules for acquiring wealth.


  1. Start they purse to fattening. In Judaism, we are taught that the 10% of our money is not ours and is for tithing. If we can master this principle, we are well on our way to being fiscally responsible.

  2. Control thy expenditures. This is a challenge for many of us. It’s important for us to spend less than we make and make more than we spend.

  3. Make thy gold multiply. Find ways to increase our income.

  4. Guard thy treasures. Make wise choices with our money and only invest in things in that we know.

  5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.

  6. Insure a future income. Find ways to develop an income that will last for the future.

  7. Increase thy ability to earn. Learn and continue to improve.

Later, Rachel gave birth to another son, and Yaakov called him Binyamin. Sadly, Rachel died in childbirth and was buried in Beitlechem. The Torah tells us that this is where her grave is today (Bereishit 35:20).


וַיַּצֵּ֧ב יַעֲקֹ֛ב מַצֵּבָ֖ה עַל־קְבֻרָתָ֑הּ הִ֛וא מַצֶּ֥בֶת קְבֻֽרַת־רָחֵ֖ל עַד־הַיּֽוֹם


Our sages tell us that she was buried there so that B’nai Yisrael would come there and pray to her. Rachel is a continuous source of comfort for us. It says in Jeremiah “So says the Lord: A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children for they are not” (Jeremiah31:14).


כֹּ֣ה | אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֗ה ק֣וֹל בְּרָמָ֚ה נִשְׁמָע֙ נְהִי֙ בְּכִ֣י תַמְרוּרִ֔ים רָחֵ֖ל מְבַכָּ֣ה עַל־בָּנֶי֑הָ מֵֽאֲנָ֛ה לְהִנָּחֵ֥ם עַל־בָּנֶ֖יהָ כִּ֥י אֵינֶֽנּוּ


Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis mentions Chazal teaching that there is no need to make a memorial for outstanding people, their words and deeds are the outstanding memorial and through that their legacy lives on.

Rachel was blessed with many characteristics that set her apart from other members of our family. Yaakov was also blessed, and he used his gifts to be a blessing to others. Their legacy continues to live on through us. Each of us is also given gifts from G-d. Will we use them to learn, grow, improve ourselves, be a blessing to others and live our own legacy, or will we squander them? May we all merit the ability to make the right choices, to find and live out our purpose, be a blessing to others, bring peace and usher in the Mashiach speedily in our days.