Vayeitsei: You can only win the lottery if you buy a ticket
Success in life doesn’t just fall into our laps. We learn this important lesson from an intriguing passage in Parshat Vayeitsei.
Yaakov came to his father in law Lavan and demanded that he be paid for his many years of service, during which he hadn’t received a penny. The Torah provides for us the details of the negotiations between the two. Lavan said to Yaakov (Bereishit 30:27), “I can see what has happened; I can read the signs;
Nichasti vayevarcheinu Hashem biglalecha.” – “God has blessed me because of you.”
Yaakov then replied (Bereishit 30:30) by saying,
“Vayevarech Hashem otecha meragli,” which we usually translate as, “God has blessed you on my account.”
But the term ‘leragli’ literally means ‘because of my feet!’ What was Yaakov trying to convey?
Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsh explains this beautifully. He explains that when Lavan said to Yaakov, “Nichasti vayivarcheini Hashem biglalecha,” what he meant was this: “What has happened Yaakov, is that God has blessed me – it’s not you – you’re a holy man, and that’s why God has always helped you. It is God who has performed these miracles for my flocks. It’s to God that I should give thanks, not to you. You don’t deserve a single penny – God has done it all.”
When Yaakov then replied and said, “Vayevarech Hashem otecha leragli” – “God has blessed you because of my feet!” what he meant was, “For all these years, I’ve been standing in your fields. Under all weather conditions, I’ve given the utmost service. It has been a partnership. Of course, I’ve got my bitachon, my trust in God, but throughout this time, God was turning to me for my hishtadlut, for my efforts, as well. I did it with Hashem, and therefore you should be paying me.”
From Yaakov we learn that in life, you can only succeed if you try hard together with faith in Hashem. The way that the Talmud puts it is that Hashem says to us,
“Pitchu li petach shel machat veniftach lachem pitcho shel ulam.” – “Open for me just the space of the eye of a needle and I will expand that to be the space of an entire hall.”
We may be the junior partners, but it is always a partnership. ‘Ein somchin al haneis’ – never rely on miracles, the Talmud tells us. We have to do our bit. So it is from Yaakov we learn that in life, you can only win the lottery if you buy a ticket. Success doesn’t automatically fall into our laps. It’s a partnership and together with bitachon in Hashem, we need to always try our hardest.