In this week’s parshah, Yaakov Avinu meets his wife, Rachel. When they meet, the Torah tells us that Yaakov Avinu was crying. Rashi cites two explanations as to why Yaakov cried. The first explanation is that he saw with ruach hakodesh that she would not be buried with him.
The second explanation is that he came empty-handed. When Eliezer came to find a wife for Yitzchak, he came with jewelry and presents. Yaakov, on the other hand, came with nothing. This was because Eisav had sent his son Elifaz to kill Yaakov on the road. When Elifaz caught up with Yaakov, he explained that he had been commanded by his father to kill him. However, since Elifaz was brought up in the house of Yitzchak, he asked Yaakov what he should do. Yaakov responded that he should take all of his (Yaakov’s) belongings, leaving him impoverished. This would be a fulfillment of his father’s command since a poor man is considered dead.
The question is: Why would Yaakov cry about something so seemingly trivial as jewelry and gifts? Surely Yaakov Avinu would not cry if it were not warranted. Certainly, therefore, there must be something deeper lying in this explanation that Yaakov cried because he had no possessions.
What could it be? My rebbe, Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l, said, that when a person earns money in the correct way he infuses ruchniyus into the money. The money and possessions are uplifted to a spiritual level, which can then have an effect on a person. Yaakov Avinu was not crying because he did not have mere gifts to shower upon his bride-to-be; rather, he was crying because he did not have his father’s kedushah-infused belongings to give to Rachel, which would have had an effect on her.
We learn that when Eliezer met Rivka, he put bracelets and jewelry on her even before he inquired if she was from the correct family. Why did he act so hastily in putting the jewelry on Rivka? What was the rush? We also learn that when he recounted the story to Rivka’s family, he switched the order and told them he had inquired about her lineage prior to giving her jewelry because it would have seemed awkward that he gave the jewelry before he was sure she was the right girl. So, why, indeed, did he give her the jewelry before ensuring she was the right girl?
Rav Shmuel answered that it was because Eliezer wanted Avraham Avinu’s possessions to begin impacting Rivka. Eliezer was confident that Rivka was the right one based on the sign he had asked for and did not want to waste any time; he wanted them to immediately begin influencing her.
This is why Yaakov Avinu cried. He was distressed that his wife would never be able to receive the kedushah of his father’s possessions.
There are stories in the Gemara and throughout our history of people being impacted by donning an article of clothing worn by a gadol. Presumably it had this effect for the reason mentioned above.
This phenomenon also shows us the importance of earning a living by following the Torah’s guidance. It is not only the legal way; it also can impact our actual possessions and have an effect on ourselves and our families.