The timeless teachings that have guided the Jewish nation throughout the millenia, actually exist in a “microchip” form — our holy Torah, the Five Books of Moses (Chumash.) The Five Books of Moses, together with the writings of the Prophets and Kings, is known as the Tanach. The Written Law (Tanach) and the Oral Law-- that which was handed down from father to son and from mother to daughter, from ancient times when the Israelites received the Torah, until today--form the fundamental blueprint of how a human being can reach his/ her emotional and spiritual potential in this world.
Studying the ways of our ancestors-- our forefathers, our foremothers and their extended families, provides us with the proper tools for living life to its fullest, physically and emotionally, through their examples and teachings. Life’s wisdom: psychology, proper health, childrearing, peace in the home, peace between neighbors, morality, business ethics, running finances, building communities, lifestyle issues, healing, astronomy, preventative medicine, and much more are all inferred and taught through these teachings.
Parents spend most of their energy teaching their children, both through example, as well as by providing tools and strategies for their children to live by. The original source of these teachings stems from the Torah itself, and from the timeless examples of our Fathers and Mothers in the Parshiot of the Torah. Let us look into the Torah portion of each week (known as "the Parsha"), as it is read each week, in every traditional, Jewish synagogue on this planet Earth, as a tool for parenting. And may we become better parents because of it.
Part 1: Parshas Vayishlach
Two brothers—as different as night and day—bring to light how a person should act in the face of sibling rivalry. Esav was coming to kill Yaakov, yet Yaakov, upon meeting Eisav, came forward to honor him, with a series of lovely gifts and kind words. What inner strength it took to do this! What self-confidence!
Sometimes, when we are watching the interactions between our children, of either ignoring each other in anger, or of attacking each other for some misdeed, we become frustrated in guiding them appropriately.
The Jewish answer is: Tell the story. The example of Yakov is our method of choice. Sometimes a child is playing the role of Eisav in the dynamic, and sometimes that same child is playing the role of Yaakov. It should be noted that Yaakov also prepared himself privately, in both spiritual and physical ways. He prayed for success, as well as preparing for self-defense or battle. It is these wellsprings of support—using the spiritual and the physical— from which Yaakov’s self-confidence stemmed.
Ask your children: Who would want to be the violent Eisav in one’s family, coming to hurt others? Wouldn’t you prefer to be the righteous Yaakov in your family, giving love and peace in the face of diversity?
THIS WEEK: In the course of a misunderstanding, give your child the confidence to be humble and strong all at once. If someone is upset with them, have them smile, say “Good morning”, or give a small gift. They can repeat this behavior, until the other side is convinced of their good-will. When all your children take on to emulate our forefather Yaakov, sibling rivalry takes on a completely different dimension!