In this week’s parshah, Yaakov prepares to see his brother Eisav. The p’sukim go into detail explaining the preparations that Yaakov does: including preparing for war, grouping his family, and sending Eisav gifts. As Yaakov and his family make their way towards Eisav, they encounter the Yabok River, and go to pass through. Yaakov goes back and is on his own. Rashi explains that Yaakov ends up being alone because he goes back for “pachim k’tanim” – small vessels – that he left behind.
What is the significance behind these vessels? As Rashi says, they were small. Why did Yaakov need them? We know the Avos were very wealthy people. The Gur Aryeh even takes the question further and says that Yaakov forgets them, clearly showing their insignificance. When a person deems something valuable, he does not simply forget it behind.
The Ramban says that Yaakov decides the order of what crossed in a way that exemplifies his priorities, and this fits with the p’sukim. In pasuk 23, in this order, Yaakov crosses his wives, his midwives, and his children. In pasuk 24, he sends across his valuable possessions. Only after, in pasuk 25, Yaakov goes back to get his pachim k’tanim.
On the other hand, the Radak says that the Torah includes this pasuk to emphasize Yaakov’s righteousness. He says some might read this pasuk and ask: Why do righteous people favor their belongings? It is not out of greed, rather appreciation. They can acknowledge that everything is from G-d and are careful not to waste any hard-earned gifts that He has given us. Therefore, he goes back for those small vessels.
There was once a tree and a boy who were friends. When the boy was young, he would come and spend time with the tree. He would collect her leaves and make a crown, climb her trunk, swing from her branches. As the boy grew older, he would spend less and less time with the tree, because he became busy and was not so interested.
One day, the boy comes to the tree and the tree gets excited and says, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches…and be happy.” The boy is not inclined to spend time with the tree; rather, he comes to the tree to ask for money. The tree has no money but offers the boy her apples so he can sell them. The boy takes the apples, and the tree is happy.
The boy stays away for a while and decides to return to the tree. The tree is shaken with joy and asks the boy to come play with her. The boy says he is busy and has come because he needs a house. The tree cannot provide a house but tells the boy to cut off her branches and build a house. The boy takes the branches, and the tree is happy.
Once again, the boy returns and asks for a boat from the tree. The tree happily offers the boy to cut off her trunk to build a boat. The boy does as she suggests, and the tree is happy.
One last time, the boy comes back to the tree and the tree is not happy. She says, “I wish that I could give you something, but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry.” The boy says that he does not need much anymore, just a place to sit and rest. The tree straightens herself up and tells the boy that an old stump is great for resting. The boy sits, and the tree is happy.
The tree could not fulfill the boy’s big requests. She could not provide him money, a house, or a boat; however, she gave him what she could in order to help him succeed. She gives him small vessels that help the boy get what he wants. The tree helps show the boy the value in the small objects she provides him. Even small things can hold value if they are put to good use.
As people, we tend to forget the little things in life. We get so caught up in luxuries and extravagances that we lose sight of what is truly important and the little things in life. G-d provides us with all we have, and we should appreciate everything He gives us. We need to put our lives into perspective and sift through to find the pachim k’tanim – the same way that Yaakov did.
Talia Cohen, a Junior at SKA High School, practices creative writing on Jewish topics.
By Talia Cohen