Sibling rivalry is something that exists in every home, it started in the תורה when the first sibling was born with קין and הבל. The reason it exists in every home is because it makes sense – the minute a new child is brought into the family, it immediately causes a child to feel intense feelings of jealousy. This feeling will automatically come because children look at love as something which is finite – it is limited and can be used up – like a box of chocolates. Children think that the more attention someone gets, the less attention there is for them.
You may be wondering – what does this have to do with this week’s Parsha? The answer is that it has everything to do with this week’s Parsha. This week’s Parsha is one of the most important and fundamental parshiot as we receive the Torah, the moment that defines all of the Jewish history. However, that almost didn’t happen. Why? Because of sibling rivalry.
As the תורה states in פרק יט, פסוק ב:
“וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיִּחַן־שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר׃”
“Having journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain”
Chazal notes the transformation of the plural verbs – ויסעו (and they traveled), ויבאו (and they came), ויחנו (and they camped) to singular in ויחן – a singular verb of camping.
It is not typical for the תורה to change from plural to singular in one pasuk – so why is the תורה doing it here?
Rashi points out that the reason for the switch is because until their stop at מדבר סיני, the Jewish people were in a constant state of ‘sibling rivalry’, of fighting. Finally, upon arriving at הר סיני, the Jewish people became like one – כאיש אחד בלב אחד. The Ohr HaChaim explains that the reason this happened here is because without the necessary unification, the Jewish people would not have received the תורה. Unity is a prerequisite for Hashem to give us the תורה.
It is important for our children to understand that unity is a prerequisite for our family. That does not mean things will always be perfect, and we will sit around the dinner table each night singing kumbaya (or thank you Hashem), but it does mean that our job as parents is to express the importance of unity, and to constantly reinforce that message. One way to reinforce this is by giving our children special sibling time, where they just play amongst themselves.
- One way to make this practical is by expressing, both explicitly and implicitly, that your children’s unity is important to you.
For example, saying to one’s spouse that you are proud of the children for playing or sharing nicely – and praising the specific thing, like how kind they are.
- Another important idea is to help our children realize that even if they are having a hard time with their siblings and don’t like their actions, that does not mean they are a bad person.
Putting your children in situations where they team up together
- When there is free time and they are complaining about being bored, don’t swoop in to save the day, let the siblings work together to find something to do together.
If you want more suggestions or have any questions in this area, please feel free to reach out – Yair@GenAleph.or
Rabbi Yair Menchel
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