Two Types of Joys of Wealth (Vayera)
This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor. -John Fitzgerald Kennedy
At the ripe old age of ninety years old, our matriarch Sarah gives birth to Isaac. The name Isaac in Hebrew is Yitzchak and means “will laugh.” Sarah is basically saying God has made me laugh (though there are numerous other interpretations as to what she means).
The Berdichever on the verse takes the opportunity to expound on bounty, joy and God’s blessings in our life. His first point is that whatever comes easy, we have little appreciation for. Had Sarah been blessed with a child in the normal fashion and at the normal age, her level of joy would not have come close to what she experienced in her old age. In general, when God sends us challenges (and make no mistake, they are from God) and then saves us from those very same problems, we then understand, or have the hope of better understanding, that it’s all from God.
Were the very thing we wanted and hoped for have come right away, we would be less likely to discern God’s hand behind the scenes. We would take it for granted that such blessings are natural, the way of the world; that there is no intelligence or cognizance in the events in our life. That it was happenstance, luck or the direct and exclusive results of our own efforts.
The Berdichever further elaborates that even when we understand and believe that everything is from God, there are two very different levels of appreciating the bounty He bestows upon us.
The first, basic level of joy over wealth is simply to enjoy it. We make ourselves happy with the bounty itself. It makes us happy to be so blessed whether it’s in health, material possessions, family, career or any of the other meaningful things in our lives.
However, the second, the more refined and elevated level of joy over wealth, is reserved for the wise and insightful who understand the truth behind any blessings that we receive. They comprehend and intuit that everything is truly from God; and when God bestows a blessing upon us, it is God who is taking an interest, an involvement in the most minute aspects of our lives and demonstrating a great love for us. There is no greater joy than to realize that we are the beneficiaries of God’s divine love and detailed attention and providence.
This joyous realization in turn, creates an obligation on our part. Just as God’s providence is over us continually, every moment of every day of our lives, without leaving us even for a second, so too, our commitment to God, our willingness to serve Him likewise should be continuous, without abandoning God even for a moment.
May He continue to rain upon us all the blessings in the world and may we continuously realize it’s from Him and strengthen our ongoing relationship with Him.
To my mother on her big birthday! Mazal Tov!