The subject of children and money is an important one, and how delicious the confluence of circumstances that combines the aftermath of the Powerball Lottery $580 million frenzy, this week’s Parsha that portrays the differing perspectives about money and possessions between Yaakov and Esav, and the imminent arrival of Chanuka. In fact the misplaced emphasis on gifts for Chanuka can be traced largely to the irony that themajority of those who `observe’ Chanuka today, would naturally have sided with the Greeks and Hellenists versus Mattisyahu and his followers had they lived in those days.
We unwittingly share our values by our reaction, involvement and focus on money and all things commercial. If this week’s lottery received a lot of excited `press’ in your home what message did that send to your kids about what’s really important in life? If the Chanuka observance is overshadowed by gifts, gifts and more gifts, what legacy are we offering our children about self-sacrifice and dedication to a higher calling?
If we focus on understanding the difference between the Yaakov and Esav approaches to money, we can gain important insights into what we should be imparting to our children. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l, explains that Yaakov’s statement of “I have everything” (33:11) , that Rashi explains as “I have everything that I need” means I have what I need to serve Hashem properly. Yaakov recognized that Hashem gives each person what he or she needs to fulfill their mission in this world.
Esav’s mantra on the other hand “I have plenty” (33:9) interpreted by Rashi to mean “I have much more than I need” negates the truth that whatever Hashem gives to someone is for a specific purpose. One cannot have “more than enough” for whatever one has is given by Hashem for some specific purpose. Even the amount of money in one’s bank account is not haphazard, but is there for a reason.
Our children watch and observe our words and behavior very carefully to learn about the world. If we can help them understand that everything is for a purpose and money is given to a person in accordance with his or her ultimate G-dly role in this universe, we will have placed them squarely with the heroes of the Chanuka saga, the descendants of Yaakov, who view money as a tool to serve Hashem, and not for any other purpose. Then they will have truly hit the jackpot.
Best wishes for an en-riching Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann