Erev Shabbos Parashas Acharei Mos 5776

Dear Parents,

We just experienced the pinnacle of family time, the magnificent Yom Tov of Pesach with its emphasis on the family unit and the transmission of Torah from generation to generation. Undoubtedly the deciding factor on which Pesach as an enjoyable and successful time hinges is the harmony or R’L the lack thereof of the family. Did brothers, sisters and cousins get along and enjoy each other’s company, or was it squabbles, fights and worse.

An illustration of how greatly the Torah values sibling harmony can be seen from a profound insight of the Ramban into one of the numerous Halachos that govern man-woman relationships. The pasuk in this week’s portion (Vayikra 18:18) states: You (a husband) shall not take a woman(as a wife) in addition to her sister, to make them rivals, to uncover the nakedness of one upon the other in her lifetime. The Ramban explains that the prohibition to marry two sisters differs fundamentally from other forbidden relationships in the Torah. The others, such as marrying a woman and her daughter, or a woman and her mother, remain forbidden even after one of them dies. Concerning two sisters, however, the prohibition disappears if only one of them remains alive. The reason for this prohibition, says the Ramban, is because it is wrong to turn two sisters into rivals.

Sisters should love each other, and not to be in competition with each other for their husband’s love and attention. The Sefer HaChinuch states: The Master of All desires there be peace between His creations, and certainly between those beings about who nature and intellect obligate there to be peace among them and not constant quarrels. Rav Yitzchak Silberstein, Shlita, adds that this also explains why the prohibition of marrying a woman and her sister no longer applies after a person’s wife (one of the sisters) dies, when there is no longer a possibility of turning the two sisters into rivals.

When one considers the sanctity and power that each additional positive or negative mitzvah provides, it is truly astonishing to fathom the logical conclusion of the Ramban’s words: The Torah would not have included the prohibition of marrying two sisters in the Torah, if not for its concern to ensure sisters remain loving and in harmony. Perhaps this is a deeper understanding of the Sefer HaChinuch’s statement that “nature and intellect obligate peace (between siblings).”

When considering the parents’ role in minimizing the friction between brothers and sisters, we see it goes way beyond the interest of maintaining a calm atmosphere in one’s home. Peace between siblings is part and parcel of the natural order of the world that Hashem has implanted in our universe. It is also perfectly normal for those who share space and are constantly vying for parents’ love and approval to become rivals. The Ramban and Sefer HaChinuch are illuminating the idea that as intense and as `normal’ sibling stuff may be, there is a higher natural order to our world, that one’s intellect can grasp, that Hashem created siblings to live in harmony and true love.

If we can appreciate that our efforts to help our children get along better, to be loyal to each other and to support each other is part of Hashem’s plan for the universe, we will find greater motivation, insight and wherewithal to discover effective means to bring peace and harmony to their sibling relationships. It’s only natural.

With best wishes for a unified, peaceful and harmonious Shabbos,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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