It’s Parashas Vayishlach! This is my oldest brother’s bar mitzvah parasha! In fact, I could still recite for you the beginning of the haftarah (portion of Prophets read after the Torah portion) in tune, by heart… I love being a little sister!
Speaking of siblings, this week’s parasha is full of stories about the family of Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov Avinu sends out messengers to check what Eisav is plotting and finds out that Eisav is planning an attack, so Yaakov Avinu prepares his family. He splits the camp into three separate camps, prays, and sends a gift ahead to Eisav. Yaakov Avinu fights with the angel of Eisav at night and wins; the angel injures Yaakov Avinu in the thigh, making it forbidden for us to eat that part of an animal. Yaakov Avinu and Eisav meet, embrace, talk, and part in peace, each to his own place.
Yaakov Avinu’s camp arrives in Shechem where his daughter Dinah is kidnapped by Shechem the son of Chamor. Yaakov Avinu’s family discovers this and two of his sons, Shimon and Levi, plan a plot to kill out the city of Shechem. The whole city has bris milah so that Shechem can marry Dinah; on the third day after, when all the men are in the most pain, Shimon and Levi kill out the city. Yaakov Avinu rebukes them.
The family travels to Beis-el. Rivkah Imeinu and her nursemaid Devorah die. Hashem blesses Yaakov and renames him Yisroel. Binyamin, the last of the twelve tribes, is born, and his mother Rochel Imeinu dies. Reuven makes a mistake switching his father’s bed. Yaakov Avinu and his family finally reach his home and he is reunited with his father Yitzchok Avinu. Yitzchok Avinu dies. The generations of Eisav are recounted.
Comes to mind a time when I was at the Kosel, the Western Wall, on a Friday afternoon. The day was steadily creeping along and the traffic leaving from the Kosel was totally crazy due to a holiday of the Muslims, Ramadan. I wondered how I’d get out of the Old City and across Yerushalayim before Shabbos. Well, insert older brother! I called him and he stayed on the phone with me, directing me step by step, through the Old City and out to the train stop. (A lot of my older-sibling-savior stories have to do with directions, because a sense of direction is one thing I did not get in my genes that they all seem to have gotten!)
Can you think of a time when one of your siblings came through to “save” you? (If you don’t have siblings, maybe you can relate to this with cousins or neighbors.)
This is a little bit of a more comforting image of a big brother than the one Yaakov Avinu has to contend with. Over thirty years since their last meeting, Yaakov Avinu is planning to return with his family to the Land of Cana’an. What is his priority? Battle plan for when he meets Eisav HaRasha, his far-from-charming-older-by-a-minute-brother!
We see a little later in the parasha how the brothers of Dinah react when she is abducted. Now clearly, Yaakov Avinu wasn’t too happy with their treatment of the situation as they did go a little overboard, but they seemed to be trying to be pretty good brothers if you ask me!
Did you know that every Friday night, when Jewish fathers give their children blessings before the Shabbos meal, the girls are blessed to be like the imahos, our matriarchs – and the boys are blessed to be like Efrayim and Menashe? Who were they? Efrayim and Menashe were the two sons of Yosef HaTzaddik and the grandsons of Dinah, who we’re learn about in the coming weeks. What was so special about them?
Efrayim and Menashe were the first two brothers who didn’t fight. Unlike Yitzchok Avinu and Yishma’el, unlike Yaakov Avinu and Eisav, and unlike the twelve sons of Yaakov Avinu (who did not have the perfect brotherly relationship we’d have hoped for!), Efrayim and Menashe did have that ideal relationship of peace and harmony.
I’m not one to compare our relationships to those in the times of the Torah, but I think it’s obvious that there’s lots to learn this week about the power of our sibling relationships. I got off the phone with my brother tonight with a big smile on my face. I turned to my friend and said, “Have I ever mentioned that my brothers are awesome?”
She responded, “Oh I think you have at least once or twice!” Siblings are so easy to take for granted, but they’re such an integral part of our lives.
They played with you since before you all remember; you adventured and learned about life together. We can be there for them in times of need; they can be that shoulder to cry on or the one to say those few words to raise us up. Nothing that Hashem did in this world is random. He created these unique relationships for a reason. We need them.
What have you done today for somebody who’s important in your life?
Listening to Everywhere by Mendy Antelis. It was a free single on Shaindel’s blog at one point – she wrote the song for her younger brother to sing! And I think their older brother recorded it. How’s that for sibling teamwork?!