This Shabbat we will read the Torah Portion “VaYishlakh” in the book of Genesis.
Jacob – יעקב returns to the Holy Land after a 20-year stay in Charan, and sends emissaries to Esau in hope of a reconciliation, but his messengers report that his brother is on the warpath with 400 armed men.
Jacob prepares for war and prays.
In his prayer Jacob says:
קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים, וּמִכָּל-הָאֱמֶת, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ, אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ: כִּי בְמַקְלִי, עָבַרְתִּי אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה, וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי, לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת
I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two camps. (Genesis 32, 11)
The Hebrew word “KATONTI“, which is translated as “Not Worthy of…” comes from the root KATAN – קטן – little.
KATONTI literally means “I have become little“.
Let’s try and understand why the word “KATONTI” is translated as “not worthy”.
Actually there are two main interpretations in the Midrash to Jacob’s proclamation, “Katonti m’kol hachasadim.”
One view is that Jacob was saying, “I am not worthy of…,” meaning that he is unworthy of God performing miracles for him.
The other view is that Jacob felt that he was indeed “worthy,” but that it would lead to “katonti,” – becoming little – a diminishment of his merits.
Usually when a person receives many “life gifts“, he feels greater and greater and gets the notion that he deserves all of those, attributing the gifts to his merits.
But Jacob is telling us:
How can a person not feel small when such an overwhelming debt of gratitude is owed!
This is what Jacob asked for:
I want to be reminded of my smallness, through Creator’s giving and giving, through boundless mercies, so that I am overwhelmed but by feelings of gratitude.
In Modern Hebrew the expression “KATONTI” is used when somebody being humble about himself actually says:
I am not knowledgeable enough, not experienced …
Who am I to…?, etc..
And now a few Hebrew expressions with the word KATAN:
KESEF KATAN – כסף קטו – small change (lit. small money)
HA’SHAOT HAK’TANOT SHEL HA’LAILA
השעות הקטנות של הלילה
small hours (late night hours / very early morning hours)
KTAN’TAN – קטנטן very little / tiny
KATAN ALAV – קטו עליו – (lit. ‘little on him’), meaning it’s an easy task for him
We recommend watching and listening to a very nice song by Yonatan Razael based on the above verse.
Click below to access it at:
And here is the link to the lyrics:
Yoel & Orly