SALT - Wednesday, 13 Kislev 5780 - December 11, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Vayishlach of the lavish gift that Yaakov sent to Eisav in advance of their reunion, which Yaakov hoped would assuage Eisav’s anger over his having deceived their father into giving him the blessings intended for Eisav.  This gift, which consisted of hundreds of animals, was sent ahead with Yaakov’s servants, whom he instructed, “…revach tasimu bein eider le-vein eider” – “make a space between one herd and the next” (32:17).  Rather than bring all the animals at once, Yaakov’s servants were to bring each herd separately, with a break between each group. 
The reason for this instruction, as Rashi explains, was “kedei le-hasbia eino shel oto rasha” – “in order to satiate the eye of that wicked man.”  By dividing the gift into multiple different stages, Yaakov hoped to “satiate” Eisav’s “eyes” – meaning, to make the gift look even larger and more impressive.  The emotional impact of one very large gift, in Yaakov’s estimation, would be less than the impact of a long series of herds brought to Eisav in numerous installments, separated by empty spaces.
            Rav Yechezkel Levenstein noted the symbolic significance of the fact that it was specifically a “revach” – an empty space between the herds – that made a profound impression on Eisav.  Very often, Rav Levenstein observed, that which impresses us, which lures us, which excites us and which draws our attention, is “revach” – “emptiness.”  Many times, we are preoccupied or distracted by matters which have little or no value, that do not contribute meaningfully to our own growth or to the betterment of the world.  Our “eyes” mislead us into thinking we can experience “satiation” – satisfaction and fulfillment – through activities and pursuits which are, in truth, “revach,” bereft of any substance or worth.  Just as the empty spaces between the herds aroused Eisav’s interest and evoked feelings of excitement, so are we prone to falling prey to the false allure of “empty spaces,” of worthless matters.
            Rav Levenstein’s teaching calls upon us to be careful and discerning in deciding to what to give our attention and in what to invest our time, our minds, and our emotions.  We need to remember that many things that appear meaningful, worthwhile and fulfilling are, in truth, “empty” and bereft of value.  We must try to avoid falling into the trap of lending importance to vanity and devoting our precious resources of time and mental and emotional energy into meaningless activities, and to instead direct our attention and our minds onto matters that are truly important and worthwhile.