VaYishlach: A Thanksgiving Message from Our Founding Fathers

“I have become diminished through all the kindnesses, and through all the faithfulness, which You have performed for Your servant.” (Genesis 32:11)

Despite the gargantuan character of the righteous Yaakov (Jacob), and the continual suffering he underwent throughout his life — his rivalry with his brother Esav (Esau), his flight from his brother Esav who wanted to kill him, his decades of mistreatment at the hands of his crooked uncle Lavan, and his fear for his life as he must now confront Esav and his army of four hundred men — Jacob turns to God and declares his unworthiness for all the kindnesses bestowed upon him. Jacob describes himself as “diminished,” meaning that even if he could credit himself with some merit, surely that merit has been depleted to provide him with all these otherwise undeserved favors, and therefore cannot stand now to protect him from the looming danger of confrontation with his brother. If Jacob, despite all his suffering, and despite his gargantuan character and righteousness, could humbly look upon himself as undeserving of God’s kindness, this stands as a lesson to us all, who yearn to measure up to the dust of Jacob’s feet, who are probably living in the most privileged generation that has ever lived on earth, to at least be more thankful to God for all the incredible kindnesses in our lives, and to rejoice in our generous and most fortunate lot. And it wouldn’t hurt to try and bank a bit more merit through more refined thoughts and intentions, upright relations with our fellow man, and a strengthened relationship with God.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas VaYishlach

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