This is (hopefully) a daily series of short reflections in English on the daily chapter of Tanach in the (wonderful, wonderful) 929 Project. The initiative, and the ideas and opinions expressed here, are my own. If you haven’t heard of 929, you can learn more at 929.org.il
There is a value that Israeli parents teach their children that I don’t think I ever encountered in America. It’s the value of being ‘mevater’– of giving up on something. An older child might be asked to be ‘mevater‘ on a toy that a younger child wants, a parent might ask two bickering children- who will be ‘mevater‘. To my knowledge, there’s no exact English translation in common usage. It’s akin to sharing, or giving a turn, but with much stronger tones of sacrifice. Chapter 33 is about the power of being ‘mevater‘. We suggested that Yaakov’s experience with the angel has convinced him that true victory will be gained by insisting on win-win. What enables a win-win situation is the fact that often, each party defines success differently. In Yaakov and Esav’s case, the difference can be summed up by two two-letter words- “rav” and “kol“. Esav explains his reluctance to accept Yaakov’s tribute by saying that he has “rav”- “a lot”. Yaakov insists, because in his eyes, he has everything- “kol“. Yaakov has no need for all the riches he has gained in Lavan’s house, indeed, he has no need for the blessing of dominating his brother. When he says “take my blessing which has been brought to you”, on one level he is referring to the tribute, but it’s hard not to hear the echoes of that blessing which was meant for Esav, which Yaakov took, and is now relinquishing. Esav ultimately acquiesces, because someone who has ‘a lot’ will always appreciate having even more. But for Yaakov having ‘everything’ is not dependent on the quantity of his riches at all. He can give Esav hundreds of animals without losing anything, he can willingly be ‘mevater’, because Yaakov’s ‘everything’ is defined by whatever God’s grace has granted him.