Parshas Vayetzei - The Claw Game

By BJLife/Ori Strum

Posted on 11/12/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

When was the last time you played that claw game at an amusement park? You know what I’m talking about, right? You spend around five bucks to handle a joystick and hope to grab a funny looking stuffed animal with the metal claw. If you ever wondered why the cages for those games are always filled with stuffed animals, the reason is because no one ever wins! But all joking aside, there is a method to have at least a greater chance at winning the claw game. That is, too often people try to grab a whole bunch of the stuffed animals at once in hope to come up with one. This approach, however, is an almost guaranteed way to come up short and grab nothing. 

The real pros at the claw game know how to zero in and focus on one of the stuffed animals, and then they send the claw down. Using this strategy offers the player a much greater chance of winning one of these stuffed animals that will be anyways be given away within a few months. 

In the Haggadah of Pesach, we say the following: צא ולמד מה בקש לבן הארמי לעשות ליעקב אבינו, שפרעה לא גזר אלא על הזכרים, ולבן בקש לעקור את הכלGo and learn what Lavan the Aramean planned to do to our father Yaakov; for Pharoah decreed only that the male children be put to death, but Lavan had planned to uproot all

We see a major contrast between Pharoah and Lavan. Whereas Pharoah only issued a decree against males, Lavan wished to uproot everything. The holy Sfas Emes points out a marvelous idea. If Lavan had not “wanted to uproot all”, he very well may have been successful, just as Pharoah was somewhat successful. However, since Lavan went to the extreme and sought to destroy all the Jews, Hashem did not let him accomplish anything.  

Lavan wanted to uproot everything and in turn he accomplished nothing. This is similar to Haman who wished to destroy ALL the Jews, and he ended up accomplishing absolutely nothing. 

Chazal (see Tractate Rosh Hashanah 4b) tell us: תפשת מרובה לא תפשת – if you try grabbing too much, you will end up grabbing nothing. תפשת מועט תפשת – however, if you try grabbing a little, then you will end up grabbing something. 

The way to win the claw game at an amusement park is to “grab a little” and not try to grab them all. Our great Sages are teaching us that overreaching and trying for too much can and will often have a ricochet effect. 

Ironically, we learn from Yaakov Avinu what the right approach in life is. You see, Yaakov Avinu dreamed about a סלם, a ladder. By definition, a ladder is constructed with one rung on top of another. The way you climb a ladder is one small step at a time, one rung at a time. This is the תפשת מועט תפשת philosophy. And it is this approach – when we strive for greatness by taking one small step at a time – that will surely elevate us and allow us to ascend the spiritual ladder of greatness. 

Have a great Shabbos!