Once a man came to visit the Maggid of Mezeritch. He was shocked to see how empty the Maggid’s home was. There was hardly any furniture; the tables, chairs, and beds were all made of simple boards or stumps of wood. The man could not help asking the Maggid why his house was so bare.

The Maggid replied: “And where is your furniture?”

“In my home, of course.”

“Why don’t you have any with you?” the Maggid continued.

The man looked at the Maggid in surprise. “I’m on a business trip now. Surely a person doesn’t need his furniture when he is in the middle of a journey!”

The Maggid smiled. “I too am on a journey. This world and all its possessions are only temporary.”

* * *

Yaakov Avinu was sending this same message to Esav. He sent messengers to Esav, instructing them to give his brother gifts and tell him in Yaakov’s name: “Im Lavan garti... I have lived with Lavan and have been delayed there until now. I have acquired many possessions — oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants.”

Rashi tells us that the word garti (גרתי) — “I have lived” — has a deeper message. The Hebrew letters of this word are gimmel, reish, taf and yud. We find the same letters in the word taryag (תרי"ג). We all know that taryag stands for the 613 mitzvos of the Torah. Yaakov’s message, says Rashi, was — “I have lived with Lavan for many years, but I was not influenced by him. I kept the mitzvos and led my life according to Torah.”

The words garti and taryag are not connected only because they share the same letters. There are other words in Hebrew which mean “live.”Yaakov could have used a different word. But he chose garti, which comes from the root ger — a stranger, a person who knows that he’s not really at home.

Yaakov was saying that everything which he earned while working for Lavan — the oxen, donkeys, sheep and servants — are not really important. The entire time he was living there, he was like a stranger, because working for these things is not what his life was all about.

Yaakov’s real life centers around his neshamah. All his possessions are things he lives with, not things he lives for. He was telling Esav: “I am concerned with things that are permanent, things which really count.”

All the time thatwe, Yaakov’s children, arein galus, we are also strangers. Although we may be successful and prosper, this is not what we are really living for. Like Yaakov, our lives should center around our neshamos. That is what really matters to a Jew.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, Parshas Vayishlach)