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CHARACTER TRAITS TO AIM FOR
In this week’s parsha, after many years of separation, Jacob once again meets his brother, Esau. From the subtlety of Jacob’s language, we discover the character traits to which we, as Jews, should aspire - and the converse is also true. From Esau we learn those characteristics that we must shun.
In order to appease Esau, Jacob presents him with gifts. Initially, Esau demurs, saying "Yesh li rov" "I have plenty ." Nevertheless, Jacob presses the gifts upon him saying, since G-d has been gracious unto me, ‘Yesh Li Kol’ - I have everything " (Genesis 33:9-11). In this exchange we discover two world views - the philosophy of the Torah Jew and the outlook of those who live their lives devoid of G-d. When Esau said, "I have plenty," he also telegraphed a message, "I want more." His statement revealed his greed and arrogance. Our sages teach that "one who has one hundred, desire two," meaning that more than enjoying the hundred that he does possess, he covets the hundred that he does not as yet have. Such a person is never at peace - there is always something more for which he lusts. He remains forever dissatisfied, for as far as he is concerned, his possessions are not gifts from G-d, but the fruit of his own labor, a reflection of his own achievements. Therefore, he does not understand the concept of gratitude or the implications of tzedukah which are based upon giving back.
On the other hand, from our father Jacob we learn that if a man recognizes that his possessions are gifts from G-d, then indeed, he can proclaim, "I have everything," for a genuinely spiritual person perceives that G-d gives everyone that which he requires to fulfill his potential. Therefore, if he lacks something, he does not feel deprived, but is sustained by the knowledge that if G-d did not deem it important for him to have, he didn’t need it.
"Who is wealthy?" our sages ask. "He who is content with his lot," and that contentment can only be attained by recognizing G-d’s presence in our lives. Jacob was totally connected to G-d, and even in his most difficult moments, he was tranquil in the knowledge that G-d was above him and would provide. Since Jacob viewed his possessions as gifts from the Almighty, he was committed to sharing them with others. But for Esau, his possessions reflected his own achievements, Therefore, the only compulsion that he felt was to acquire even more. In our materially obsessed society, in which we work ourselves into a frenzy to obtain ever more, we would do well to remember the teaching of Jacob and proclaim with him, "G-d has been gracious unto me.." - "I have everything."
From Jacob we also learn that those material gifts that we do possess should not be flaunted. Although at this juncture he was a wealthy man, he described his assets by saying, "I have one ox, one donkey, one lamb, one servant, reminding us to be humble and modest.
Once again, a lesson that is so important for our generation, in which people feel compelled to ostentatiously display their wealth.