Kenneth Cohen

Small Packages

The commentators ask how Yakov Avinu was left alone and unprotected, that made him vulnerable to the attack of the angel that wrestled with him.

Rashi tells us that he went back across the Yabok River to retrieve some small packages.

The Talmud in Masechet Chullin elaborates by telling us that Yakov had already taken care of his family and the large packages, and the rest of their possessions. He had only left the small, more inexpensive packages.

The Gemara is giving an important lesson, especially for those considered to be the scholars and spiritual leaders. Yakov would never consider taking anything that didn’t belong to him. He certainly would not steal.

One of the greatest desecrations of Hashem’s name, is when the so called righteous are not honest in money matters. Allowing themselves to be involved in shady businesses, or the misuse of public funds, is absolutely inexcusable behavior.

The argument that I have heard too many times over the years is that, “I may not be very observant, but, at least, I’m honest.” This reasoning is definitely flawed, but the fact that it is even brought up, shows that where there is smoke, there is fire.

The Orchot Tzaddikim in the name of the Rambam, emphasize the higher standard that a learned person should have. Not only must he be honest in money matters, but he should go beyond the letter of the law, to make sure he is never suspected of acting improperly.

Yakov Avinu demonstrated this by going back to retrieve his small packages. Straightness and honesty in money matters, must always be emphasized.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at