SALT - Thursday, 15 Kislev 5777 - December 15, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Parashat Vayishlach begins with the humble, conciliatory message sent by Yaakov to Esav as he made his way to Canaan after spending many years with Lavan to escape from Esav.  Yaakov opens his message by stating, “Im Lavan garti” – “I have dwelled with Lavan.”  Rashi, citing the Midrash Tanchuma, interprets the word “garti” as expressing a lowly status.  Yaakov was telling Esav, in Rashi’s words, “I did not become an officer and person of distinction, but rather a foreigner.  You have no reason to hate me for the blessing with which your father blessed me, ‘you shall be a lord over your brother’ (27:29), [because] it was not fulfilled for me.”

            Likewise, commenting on the next verse, in which Yaakov speaks of the large herds of cattle he had amassed, Rashi explains that Yaakov sought to prove to Esav that the blessing he stole was not fulfilled.  Yitzchak had blessed Yaakov that he should be granted “the dew of the heavens” and “the fat of the earth” (27:28), yet his wealth came from cattle, not from agriculture.  Therefore, Esav had no reason to resent losing this blessing – which had proven ineffectual – to Yaakov.

            The obvious question arises as to why Esav would assume that Yaakov’s current circumstances proved that the blessing had no effect.  Seemingly, it was understood that Yitzchak’s blessing to his son was intended for the distant future, for his son’s offspring and later generations.  This is, presumably, how Yaakov perceived the blessings he received – as promises for his offspring generations henceforth.  How, then, would his current circumstances demonstrate to Esav that he had no reason to resent losing the blessing?

            It has been suggested that Rashi’s comments reflect a certain aspect of Esav’s character.  Namely, his attention was focused on the “here and now,” on his immediate surroundings and circumstances, without long-term vision.  Thus, for example, some commentators explain that Esav was prepared to sell his birthright, the privileges of which would come only in the distant future, for the sake of satisfying his hunger on one particular occasion.  He looked at his current circumstances, and chose to satisfy his immediate desire at the expense of invaluable future opportunities.  The Midrash cited by Rashi perhaps seeks to allude to us this important difference between Yaakov and Esav.  Yaakov, of course, fully believed in the future fulfillment of his father’s blessing.  From Esav’s perspective, however, the fact that the blessings had gone unfulfilled for several decades proved that they were worthless.  For somebody who sees only the present conditions and circumstances, without any long-term consciousness, a blessing that was not fulfilled for over thirty years will never be fulfilled.

            We, the descendants and heirs of Yaakov, are thus reminded not to allow our present conditions and immediate needs to lead us to neglect the future.  We must remember that our circumstances in the present are fleeting and transient.  The problems we confront today will be replaced by other problems in the future, and our priorities today will be replaced with priorities in the future.  Even as we work to address our current conditions, we must live with an awareness of the future and ensure to prepare for what lies ahead, rather than focusing exclusively on the here and now.

(Based on an article by Rav Yissachar Frand)