Our parsha opens with Yaakov Avinu on the road between Beer Sheva and Haran davening to Hashem. Yaakov has just awakened from his famous dream of the angels climbing up and down the ladder and appeals to Hashem: “If God will be with me, will guard me on this way that I am going; will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear; and I return in peace to my father’s house, then Hashem will be a God to me.” (Beresheet 28:20).
Four words in this short but poignant prayer strike us as somewhat odd – “bread to eat and clothing to wear.” Yaakov, in an intense request to Hashem to keep him safe and protected – for which, in return, he pledges complete devotion to God – asks only for the basic minimum of material goods. He doesn’t ask for wealth or a peaceful life, just for some bread and clothing. Surely he had greater visions for himself. Could he not have asked for more?
As in all of Sefer Beresheet, “the actions of the fathers are a sign for the children.” Here too there is a lesson for us all to learn.
As he stands at the precipice of the unknown, trials and travails awaiting him in the coming parshot, Yaakov is keenly aware of that which is crucial to his survival: faith and unconditional trust in Hashem accompanied by minimal material goods.
Rabbenu Ba’chai tells us that tzaddikim ask only for that which is critical for their survival, never for extras. But why? The Jewish people are not known for their asceticism. We are taught to enjoy and be grateful for all the material bounty Hashem offers us. Then why does Yaakov ask only for the basics – indeed the absolute minimum – needed for endurance?
When man strives for luxuries, he causes himself great turmoil. The desire for “more” becomes an end in itself, eclipsing more important values. A man who is yireh Hashem, who has the fear of God, recognizes this insatiable desire and unquenchable thirst as an impossible end and thus works hard to be sameach b’khelko, happy with his lot. His heart – free from voracious longings – is able to concentrate more purely and deeply on avodat Hashem, service to God.
Yaakov Avinu recognized this notion very well and thus requested quite pointedly from Hashem: “Provide me with only the minimum bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I may return home in peace and claim you as my God and serve You for the rest of my days.”
By minimizing his material needs, Yaakov was able to expand and enhance his spiritual growth and emunah, faith, in Hashem.