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Parshas of the week: Vayishlach





The story of a man called Jim Clark is told by Rabbi Joel Padowitz in an article on In 1981, Jim left his prestigious position as a professor of computer science at Stanford University to establish his first company, Silicon Graphics. At the time he said that a fortune of $10 million would make him happy.

Silicon Graphics became the undisputed world leader in computer graphics technology. But somehow he wasn’t satisfied. In 1994, he invested $5 million to create Netscape, an interface to access the nascent World Wide Web. At the time he said a fortune of $100 million would make him happy.

Netscape was a roaring success.  Jim Clark was riding a wave of success few have ever experienced. But now Jim wanted more. In 1998, before founding his next company, Healtheon, he said it would take $1 billion to make him happy.

Healtheon didn’t quite get Jim into the billionaire-club. On the bright side, by 1999 Netscape did. In fact, it raised his net worth to $2 billion! That was exciting, but for some reason, Jim Clark wasn’t quite satisfied after all.

He left Netscape to found MyCFO. Why?

Well, as he put it, “Once I have more than Larry Ellison, I’ll be satisfied.”

Jim wanted more and more. Sadly more was never enough and never will be.

Compare Jim Clark to Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, one of the great Rabbis of our generation, who passed away in 2012 at the age of over 100. 

I merited to meet Rabbi Sheinberg and receive a Brocha (Blessing) from him as did countless others. He lived in an apartment with regular furniture and was not wealthy by any means in terms of money.

Always with a smile on his face, he was adored by the entire Jewish people. His funeral was one of the biggest in the history of the state of Israel. He was married for over 80 years to his wife, has many descendants who proudly carry his name, and many students who are maintaining his legacy.

He loved every single Jew and was the address for so many people in need. Meeting him was a life changing experience in that he made you feel so good about yourself and so privileged to be a Jew. The books that he wrote are classics and are learned by so many people. He lived according to the verse in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers) “Who is happy? He who is satisfied by what he has”.

Jim Clark and Rabbi Scheinberg represent two totally diverse paths. Both are discussed in this week’s Parshah.

Yaakov had fled from his home to escape Eisav’s vengeance. Now, after thirty four years, Yaakov initiates a reunion with Eisav. Eisav advanced toward him with an army desiring to carry out his threat.

Yaakov prepares for this encounter with heartfelt prayer to Hashem to save him, military action if necessary and an elaborate tribute to be given to Eisav. 

Eisav and Yaakov finally meet. In the course of discussing Yaakov’s tribute to Eisav, both Yaakov and Eisav express their personal philosophies about material possessions.

“Eisav said “I have a great amount”…” (Genesis Chapter 33 verse 9). Yaakov said “I have everything…” (Genesis Chapter 33 verse 11)

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, contrasts in the book “Chofetz Chaim al Hatorah”, the two totally divergent worldviews between Yaakov and Eisav as pointed out by Rashi in his comments on these verses. 

Eisav’s life philosophy was that he had a lot. However, the implication of his words were that he was not satisfied and he desired more since one who has one hundred craves two hundred. To Eisav, physical possessions were everything and his lust for more never ended since there is always more to acquire, buy and possess. The sad reality though, as the modern example of Jim Clark proves, is that enough is never enough. Despite all he has amassed, he is still not a happy man.

Conversely, Yaakov said he had everything. His statement implied that he lacks nothing and has everything he needs. He has it all, and thus lives with serenity, peace of mind and happiness. It is true that Yaakov was a wealthy man with large amounts of livestock. He also had a large family and 12 small children. Nevertheless, his attitude towards his possessions was “I have everything I need”. This attitude brought him peace of mind and happiness with what he has. Rabbi Sheinberg is a modern testimony to this idea. He had a dedicated wife, a devoted family, loyal students and lived every moment of life to the absolute fullest. Every picture of him is taken with his trademark smile. You would be hard pressed to find a happier man.

Exploring this idea a little deeper, we can see that the outlook of Eisav focuses on what is lacking. Yes, one has a hundred, but there is another hundred out there that one has not yet acquired. There is so much more that a person is are missing!! The tragedy of such a worldview is that by concentrating one’s efforts on what one is deficient, one never appreciates what one already owns. The consequences of such an ideology is one is never happy despite having so much.

However, Yaakov’s outlook is founded on appreciation and gratitude of what one has already attained. For sure a person is ambitious and would like more, nevertheless, since such a person is constantly grateful for what he has achieved, he is joyful and content since his happiness is arising from something real, tangible and his. If any further material gains are not realized, it does not trouble him since he derives satisfaction from what is already there. If Hashem wanted him to have more then he would get it. If such a person does not have more possessions over and above what he already has, then it because Hashem in his infinite wisdom decreed as such. He has faith in trust in Hashem that he has what he needs and this gives him the ability to be happy with what he has.     

Two clear routes are before us. Both are available when we make our choices in life. We need deep contemplation and thought as to what really is important to us and where we will be investing our energies. Our happiness in this world and the next depend on our choices. Choose wisely and choose the path of Yaakov. If you do, then you too will truly have it all.

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