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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5777

Ein Ayah: Appreciating the Contributions of Others

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:285)

Gemara: “Yaakov encamped by the entrance of the city” (Bereishit 33:18). Rav said: He instituted for them a currency. Shmuel said: He instituted for them marketplaces. Rabbi Yochanan said: He instituted for them bathhouses. 


Ein Ayah: The way to increase the highest-level ethical approach to society is by consistently viewing the interrelationship between people. One can look at his counterpart’s existence as being helpful to him or that his presence infringes on his own ability to obtain for himself what he needs. The latter approach is a mistake, one which causes undeserved hatred, competition, and impatience between individuals and between countries.

The correct, deep outlook is that the more people there are, the more they are able to help each other by exchanging capabilities one with the other, so that one can benefit from that which his counterpart produces. The more this recognition is revealed and prominent, the greater the feeling of love and kinship that will exist within human society. This, in turn, brings the greatest good that exists in the world.

There are three basic ways to strengthen the impression that people are positively influenced by their counterparts. One way is to increase the regularity of situations which cause one to realize his interrelationship with others. These relationships changed significantly with the advent of currency. Before that time, when the barter system was used, one knew that he could benefit from what his friend produced only if Reuven needed what Shimon produced and Shimon had an interest in what Reuven produced. If there was no such overlap, one would not feel any benefit from the other. Things changed when there became currency that was widely accepted as legal tender. When one has a product, he can be confident that he can sell it for currency, which will enable him to receive that which he desires from what others have produced. Since this occurs on a regular basis, he feels more strongly the love toward others.

The feeling of love for others widens when he sees that he can benefit not only from those with whom he interacts more regularly and is used to. Rather, he realizes that if he is able to use his wisdom to produce something of broader appeal, people will gather from far and wide to obtain his products, thus bestowing great blessing upon him. This is the function of marketplaces.

However, all of these will be of value only if one’s emotions are developed for goodness and purity. This increases his desire for more things, which will then make him a beneficiary of more people. This feeling begins from an expansion of the idea of cleanliness and purity which emanates from the institution of bathhouses.

All of these elements of social life were envisioned by Yaakov Avinu, who brought them to the people of Shechem. This bringing together of people was the opposite of the event that would occur there hundreds of years later, with the division of the Kingdom of the House of David, which occurred because people did not bother to integrate material success with moral and intellectual success. Yaakov, the unblemished person, was unique in that he came in a complete manner.

The actions of the fathers are a sign for the descendants. We need to bind together all the skills in order to use this wholeness to sanctify Hashem’s Name, which is Shalom (meaning peace and also completeness). “They will sanctify the Sacred of Yaakov, and the G-d of Israel will be extolled” (Yeshaya 29:23).

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