Parashat Toledot: The Obstacle to Parnasa
The Torah in Parashat Toledot tells of Yishak’s struggles as he and his servants tried finding sources of water. After his servants dug and discovered a well of fresh water, the local Pelishtim fought over it and claimed it was theirs. Yishak therefore named the well “Esek,” which denotes struggle and troubles. This happened a second time after Yishak’s men found another well, and so he named that well “Sitna” (“hatred”). Finally, they discovered a third well which was not contested. Yishak then proclaimed, “Ata Hirhiv Hashem Lanu U’farinu Ba’aretz” – meaning, now that there was peace, they could grow and prosper in the land (26:22).
Yishak’s proclamation teaches us a fundamental lesson about the dangers of Mahloket (fighting), namely, that it denies us the ability to succeed and prosper. We know that the Torah could not be given until Beneh Yisrael encamped at Mount Sinai “as one person with one heart,” as Rashi comments (Shemot 19:2). The spiritual effects of Torah are blocked by strife and discord, and so unity and peace are necessary prerequisites for Torah. Here in Parashat Toledot, we learn that material success is also impossible without unity and harmony. Indeed, the Rabbis teach, “Mahloket Ahat Doheh Me’a Parnasot” – a single fight can cause one to lose one hundred opportunities to earn a livelihood. As we all know, opportunities to make money are rare and hard to come by. Every time we get ourselves into a fight, we deny ourselves dozens of valuable opportunities that we would otherwise have had to earn a comfortable living. Such is the destructive power of Mahloket.
In fact, Rav Haim Palachi (Turkey, 1788-1869) stated that during the period of the revolt led by Korah against Moshe Rabbenu in the desert, the manna did not fall. The Mahloket that raged at that time blocked the pipelines of material blessing, so-to-speak, and so Beneh Yisrael were denied their livelihood. As long as Beneh Yisrael were mired in strife, they could not receive their sustenance. And this is true not only in the desert, but at all times, including now.
One of the Satan’s “tricks” is to convince us that we need to fight and argue in order to get our way and obtain what we want. He has us believe that if we remain silent, if we humbly ignore insults or wrongs committed against us, then we put our wellbeing risk. But the truth is just the opposite. It is fighting and hatred that puts our wellbeing at risk. Our Sages teach that friendship and harmony among people is effective in reversing harsh decrees and in transforming the divine attribute of judgment into the attribute of kindness. The best thing we can do for ourselves, both in terms of Parnasa and in terms of our spiritual achievements, is to live in peace and harmony with the people in our lives. And this requires being forgiving, patient and tolerant, and avoiding arguments and fights even when we are sure that we are right. We must remind ourselves that each time we withdraw instead of arguing, we are opening the gates to Hashem’s blessings and helping to ensure that they will be bestowed upon us and our families.