Volume 3 Issue 8
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Yaakov prepared himself to confront his brother
-- a man who 22 years ago set out in a rage to kill him. Yaakov
had no idea what this encounter would yield. All he knew was that
his brother Esav was fast approaching with 400 armed men. And the
prospects for peace were dim.
There was little to do. He prepared for war,
but he also prepared to avert war by offering gifts to appease
the wrath of his mighty kin. He sent messengers laden with sheep,
cattle, donkeys and camels all as offerings of peace to Esav.
The bribe worked and the encounter that ensued
was not confrontational at all. Yaakov greeted his older brother
with great dignity. He bowed and called him, "my
At first, Esav declined Yaakov's generous
gifts. "I have much, let what you have remain yours." (Genesis
Yaakov urged Esav to accept the offering.
"Please accept my gift," he pleaded, adding that
"G-d has been gracious to me and I have everything."
Ultimately Esav agreed, accepted the gifts and
made a counteroffer. He asks Yaakov to join him or at least let
his men accompany Yaakov and his family on their journey. Yaakov
refused the magnanimous offer from his former enemy and the
brothers parted ways. Esav left toward his destiny -- Seir --
while Yaakov traveled to a town he named for its symbolic
transience -- Sukkoth, meaning tents.
What are the roots of these brothers'
ideological differences. One refused generous offers from his former
nemesis; the other accepted. One travels with an entourage, and
the other only with family and some servants. One traveled toward
his permanent home and the other names the resting place with a
word that means huts.
The Rebbe, Reb Ber of Mezritch, was once
approached by a chasid who had a very common
"Rebbe," he pleaded. "I never
seem to have enough. The more I get, the more I want. I know it
is improper to think this way and I need help."
The rebbe told the man to visit Rebbe Zusia
of Anipoli. "He can guide you with your difficulty."
The man was shocked as he approached Reb
Zusia's residence. He saw a ramshackle wooden hut with boarded
windows. Upon entering, the poverty was overwhelming. The man
figured, "surely this is a man who is in constant need. He
hardly has what he needed, and must grapple with new desires on a
constant basis. He surely will be able to counsel me on my
longing for the articles that I lack."
The man discussed his problem with Reb
Zusia, but Reb Zusia looked at him in amazement.
"What are you coming to me for? How can
I advise you? I have absolutely everything I need!"
There is a distinct difference in how Yaakov
and his brother Esav perceived their lot. Yaakov said he had
everything. He needed no favors, wanted neither gifts or help
from Esav, and was very happy to live in a tent city named Sukkoth.
Esav only had most of what he wanted. If you push the right
buttons, he could be bought, cajoled and swayed for a little
The vision of one's future is determined by the
essence of one's present. One who believes he has only most of
what he can acquire will not be satisfied until he has it all and
he will never have it all. But one who feels he has
it all, will be most happy -- always.
Text Copyright © 1996 by Rabbi
M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of
the Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah
facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch