Thoughts from Kollel KLAL


The passuk states “קטנתי מכל החסדים ומכל האמת אשר עשית את עבדך.” The Ramban explains “my merits are small from deserving the past kindnesses that Hashem has done for me, and I am not fitting for His kindness in the future.” Yaakov expressed to Hashem that he has never deserved anything that Hashem did for him and he is undeserving of any more kindness.

Onkelos translates these words differently, “My merits are little from all kindnesses and from all the good that You did with your servant.” The Chovos HaLevavos explains, Yaakov was worried that his merits became less because of all the different kindnesses Hashem did for him, and therefore he does not deserve any more kindness. This is as the Gemara (Shabbos לב.) brings, a person should never stand in a place of danger and say a miracle will occur, because maybe a miracle will not occur, and even if a miracle will happen for him, he will lose his merits. So too Yaakov was worried, although Hashem promised to save him, maybe he used up his merits with all the kindnesses which Hashem had done for him, and now he might be given over into the hands of Eisav.

Onkelos translates החסדים as “kindnesses (חסדין)” and האמת as “good (טבון).” The Ramban explains, Onkelos understands “the kindnesses” refer to being saved from many difficult situations and “the good” refers to all the good that he had. This includes having sons and daughters, attaining wealth, acquiring possessions, and receiving honor. Since Hashem did so much for Yaakov he was worried that his merits have become small.


The passuk ends “כי במקלי עברתי את הירדן הזה ועתה הייתי לשני מחנות, since with my staff I crossed this Yarden and now I have become two camps.” Rashi explains, “When I crossed the Yarden I only had a staff with me, nothing else, not silver, gold, or cattle, and now I have become two camps.” Rashi also brings b’shem the Midrash Agadah, Yaakov put his staff in the Yarden and the Yarden split. Onkelos translates the words “כי במקלי…” as “since I have passed through the Yarden alone and now I have become two camps.” The Nesina LaGer explains, Onkelos translates the word במקלי, literally “with my staff,” as the nimshal, “with myself alone.” A person with just a staff reflects extreme poorness, having no belongings and being alone without anyone else with him. The Marpei Lashon says that Yaakov contrasts two stages in his life. At first he was במקלי, alone by himself with nothing, and now he has become many, as the passuk ends “and now I have become two camps” with many people. Yaakov expresses the great kindness and good which Hashem performed for him, and also contrasted what he was at the beginning to what he had become.


The Chovos HaLevavos brings, it is common for people not to appreciate what Hashem does for them. Some reasons are because we take things for granted, we expect them, and we are greedy. We think that we deserve the good bestowed upon us, and we feel we should have more. In truth everything we have is from Hashem, and who says we even deserve that which we have? The Yachin says, Hashem continuously causes our existence and He constantly gives us presents as a collateral. He provides our existence as a means of opportunity to enable us to repay Him for the constant good. Hashem brings us into the world to serve Him and return all the good which He bestows upon us by fulfilling His Torah and mitzvos to the best of our abilities.


Yaakov who was so great was afraid maybe he used up his merits; we certainly should feel undeserving of Hashem’s kindness. May we learn from Yaakov Avinu to recognize and appreciate all the kindnesses and good that Hashem does for us and express our appreciation!

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