In this week’s sedrah when Pharaoh asked Yaakov, “How long are the years of your life?” so Yaakov answered that his days were not as good as the days of his fathers. What did Yaakov intend by that answer?
When Pharaoh inquired of Yaakov how old he was, so Yaakov said that his days were less and not as happy as the days of his fathers. That’s your question, right? You want to know why he said that?
And the answer is that Yaakov wanted to let Pharaoh know that he wasn’t such a happy man, such a fortunate man. Now Yaakov knew that he was fortunate, very fortunate, but it’s always good when you’re speaking to others to beware of making them envious of you.
So if you’re speaking to pious people, then you can tell them how fortunate you are because they’ll say, “Look, if Hashem is so good to tzaddikim, it’s an object lesson for us.”
But if you speak to a stranger – let’s say, if a man on the street stops you and asks you for a dime, don’t tell him, “I’m packed with money today.” Don’t tell him that. Give him the dime and say, “I just have a dime on me.” Don’t let him know how fortunate you are – it’ll make him envious and it might not turn out well.
So why did he say that it’s not as great as the days of his fathers?
That’s what he wanted to say, that he is nothing compared to his ancestors. It was a form of speech; he wanted to tell him, “Don’t think I’m such a fortunate man.” And it’s a good thing. It depends to whom you’re speaking but it’s a good thing to make sure to never cause the wrong people to envy you.
TAPE # 152 (December 1976)