Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Print this article
Vayishlach
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week's parsha how Yaakov prepares himself for his upcoming encounter with Eisav. As Rashi teaches, he prepared himself in three ways; L'Doron, L'Tefillah, U'LeMilchamah. He brought his brother a significant gift, he davened to Hashem, and he readied himself for the possibility of war.

In the section where he prepares himself through prayer, Yaakov says to Hashem (Chapter 32, Pasuk 11), Katonti Mikol Hachasadim U'Mikol Ha'Emes Asher Asisa es Avdecha. The word "Katan" means small and in this pasuk it is used as a reflexive verb. The simple translation would seem to be I am humbled by all the kindness and fulfillment of your words which you have done to me. Rashi, however, learns a different p'shat. He explains that the word "Katonti" means my merit has become small. According to this understanding, Yaakov is expressing his fears that as a result of all the good Hashem has bestowed upon him, his merit has been reduced. Therefore he is considered that perhaps he has sinned subsequent to previous assurances he received from Hashem and will be delivered into the hands of Eisav.

The Sfas Emes explains the words of Rashi on a deeper level. The Medrash Rabbah (76,5) on our pasuk teaches in the name of Rabbi Abba bar Kahana, that Yaakov was saying Eiyne Kedai, I am not worthy. Rabbi Levi teaches that he was saying, Kedai Ani Aval Katonti Mikol Hachasadim etc. I am in fact worthy, however I am small. The Sfas Emes asks on Rabbi Levi's position, if Yaakov felt he was worthy, then why did he consider himself reduced or too small for consideration? He answers that when one views himself as unworthy and only capable of receiving good as a chesed, then Hashem will give him what he needs. But when one considers himself as worthy, then he will only receive the good when he truly deserves it on his own merit. He answers that the words Katonti Mikol Hachasadim mean that the fact that I have become smaller and more humble is also a chesed from Hashem.

This is a fundamental concept of humility. If one asks for things from Hashem based on his own merit, then his record is checked to see if he deserves what he is requesting. And if he is deserving, then a debit is made from his account. This was Yaakov's fear. Perhaps all the good he received has left him with little in his account. Therefore, it is better for one to see himself as undeserving and receiving the bracha from Hashem as a chesed. In fact, the Sfas Emes teaches that the words Katonti Mikol Hachasadim mean that the fact that I have become smaller and more humble is also a chesed from Hashem. Being arrogant and feeling that reward one receives from Hashem is a result of his zechus is very dangerous. Ultimately, he will fall short and not receive what he wants. It is therefore a great chesed from Hashem for one to truly feel that everything he receives is a great chesed, for then he will continue to receive blessing as a chesed from Hashem.

This idea can help us understand another statement of Rashi in this week's parsha. Rashi teaches us on the words (Chapter 32, Pasuk 25), Vayivaser Yaakov Levado, Shachach Pachim Ketanim V'Chazar Aleihem. The Torah tells us that Yaakov remained by himself, and Rashi explains that this is because he forgot small vessels and he went back to retrieve them.

This seems quite strange. The term itself that Chazal use, "Pachim Ketanim", seems to indicate their insignificance. Why did Yaakov go back and possibly endanger himself for items of questionable value? What is Rashi teaching us with the words of Chazal.

I believe the answer is what we mentioned above. Yaakov Avinu viewed everything he received as a direct bracha and chesed from Hashem. It wasn't reward he accrued with points. Then perhaps he would have been less reluctant to part with them. Rather, it was a present he received from Hashem which he didn't deserve. Just as acts of kindness and gifts we receive from others are particularly precious to us, so too Yaakov Avinu considered all he had a result of the beneficence of Hashem and not something he deserved. And this is the greatest chesed of all; going through life appreciating all that we have and understanding it is all a gift from the Ribono shel Olam.    

Print this article