The Ball is in Your Court
וַיִּוָּתֵ֥ר יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב לְבַדּ֑וֹ
And Yaakov remained alone. (Bereishis 32:25)
The Torah relates that when Yaakov was returning to Eretz Yisroel and was about to meet up with is brother, Eisav, he brought his family across the ford of the Yabbok River and then he returned alone to retrieve some forgotten utensils. That entire evening he fought with the angel of Eisav and prevailed. The Medrash described the many way in which Yaakov and the Almighty are alike. The verse says (32:25) “And Yaakov remained alone.” The Medrash says that just as the Almighty is alone, so, too, was Yaakov alone. We see from this that the sages understood the word “alone” to be a positive attribute and a form of emulating G-d.
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz z”l says that from this perspective, the famous Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:1): “Who is the wise person? The one who learns from all people. Who is the strong person? The one who exercises self-control and subdues his negative drives. Who is the wealthy person? The one who is happy with what he has. Who is the honorable person? The one who honors others.”
Rav Yeruchem says that the key to gaining wisdom, strength, wealth and honor is all from within oneself and not dependent on others. The wise person loves wisdom and is willing to learn from anyone, no matter what their age or background. That is the definition of wisdom and is irrespective of how one compares to others in intelligence or knowledge.
Strength is the ability to overcome ones’ negative tendencies and impulses and has nothing to do with anyone else. Wealth is not dependent on how much money one has, but simply whether one is happy with what he or she has. And finally, one is honorable if he honors others, not whether other people honor him.
Judaism defines wisdom, strength, wealth, and honor as qualities that every single one of us can achieve; it is entirely up to us. If we validate and acknowledge our “being along” as a praiseworthy quality that Yaakov possessed and the Almighty possesses, and summon our greatness from “within,” we can surely achieve our sublime happiness! The ball is in our court!