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Vayishlach: Remaining True to our Mission

כי יפגשך עשו אחי ושאלך לאמר למי אתה ואנה תלך ולמי אלה לפניך. ואמרת לעבדך ליעקב מנחה הוא שלוחה לאדני לעשו והנה גם הוא אחרינו.

Yakov Avinu instructed his messengers with whom he sent gifts to Eisav:

“If my brother Eisav meets you and asks you, ‘To whom are you and where are you going and to whom is all this you have?’ You should say to him, ‘From your servant Yakov this is a gift; we are messengers to our master to Eisav, and he is coming after us.” (Bereishis 32:18-19)

The Torah is eternal the messages we find between the verses are important teachings for every generation. We can learn something profound from Yakov’s words: “If Eisav meets you and asks you” – if the yetzer hara should confront you and ask you, “To whom are you and where are you going?” Whom do you serve with such personal sacrifice and devotion, and how long is the way to spiritual achievement, which you are working so hard to reach? Do you think you’ll ever get there?

The yetzer hara tells a person: You are struggling so hard; Hashem’s commandments are very difficult. At the same time he reminds him, “To whom is all this you have” – look around you and see all the worldly pleasures that you can enjoy, if only you become less occupied with spiritual pursuits.

This approach of the yetzer hara is sometimes very persuasive. Our Rebbes have said that if the Gehinnom would be burning in full view and the physical temptations of the world would be in the books, we would all be tzaddikim. However, in reality the physical temptations of the world are displayed in the street while the reminders about Heavenly retribution for our sins are contained in the books. In order to choose right from wrong, a person must study these books and turn away from the street – not an easy task. This is why the yetzer hara is often very successful by arguing, “Look at all the pleasures that are waiting for you out there. You should take advantage of life and enjoy every moment to the maximum!”

Yakov’s instructions follow with a rebuttal to the yetzer hara’s argument: “From your servant, this is a gift; we are messengers to our Master.” We are servants of Hashem and we are His messengers. He sent us to this world for a specific mission, and we must remain faithful to this mission. We must remember the purpose of our existence, and not allow ourselves to become distracted by the temptations of the world which draw us away from our obligation to serve our Master. As for the worldly lures, they are “to Eisav” – they belong to those who value only their physical beings and do not aspire to eternal gains. The wicked who have only short-term aspirations and are willing to sacrifice eternity for transient pleasures, they are the ones you should tempt with olam hazeh.

Dovid Hamelech says in Tehillim: “From my enemies I gained wisdom in Your mitzvos.” When I see how the wicked pursue empty worldly pleasures with such gusto, I learn how I must serve Hashem – with similar intensity and enthusiasm. In fact, this is the benefit we have from being exposed to worldly pleasures; it shows us how enthusiastic and passionate we must be about serving our Master, the One to whom we belong, the One who sent us as messengers with an important mission.

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