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Parashat Vayishlah: Escaping the Prison of Materialism


A basic challenge that faces all humanity is how we relate as individuals to the material, physical world we live in. In a few simple words, the Torah lays out two diverse perspectives.

Esav, commenting on his great wealth said, “I have much.”

In contrast to his brother, Jacob said, “G-d was gracious to me and I have everything.”

Our sages of the Mishnah taught that the truly wealthy person is one who is gratified with what he has, for indeed it is common for a person who makes $100 to want to make $200 and thereby upon leaving this world he has not reached even half his desires! Since it is in the very nature of a person totally immersed in materialism never to be satiated, the singular pursuit for the acquisition of wealth stimulates the desire for even greater wealth.

Jacob, in very simple words, is mapping out a different perspective. By first putting his trust in G-d that whatever has been Divinely decreed for him is what he will have, he does not delude himself into thinking that he alone controls his economic destiny. A person with Jacob’s perspective will be able to commit himself to attain financial goals without losing the ability to enjoy whatever he has. He recognizes that all his possessions are a G-d given bounty.

Esav says, “I have much,” but alas, never enough.

Jacob says, “G-d was gracious to me and I have everything I need”

~Rabbi Shaul