Taming and moderating sibling rivalry has always been a great challenge to even successful and well accomplished parents. While most parents know what to do with one child, when there are two or more, that’s when sparks start flying! Is there one element, one secret ingredient that can be identified as the best predictor of limiting the hard feelings and sometimes cruel behavior that develops between and among brothers and sisters? The answer may be found in this week’s parsha.
When Moshe Rabbeinu is lamenting to Hashem that the burden of leading the Jewish People had just become overwhelming (Bamidbar 11:11-12), he questions “have I conceived and given birth to them…?” as if to say – they are not my responsibility to the extent of a parent’s responsibility for his or her own child.
The Seforno explains what is meant by the power a parent has that even Moshe doesn’t; a father can handle numerous children with their conflicting ideas and opinions, who are constantly arguing and bickering, because all the siblings realize that he, the father, truly loves them and will do anything for their benefit. A father will extend himself to the limits of his strengths and abilities to help, guide and protect his child. This quality, which is certainly not lost on the children, unites them in their trust of their father.
This is the secret, perhaps – the shared trust in a loving, reliable, unwavering parent is a greater unifier than even a Moshe Rabbeinu! This is the power of unconditional love, shared unconditionally with all of one’s children.
Cries of “unfair,” “”she always gets to go first,” etc. may be inevitable. A calm, self-confident response of “fair does not mean everyone is treated exactly the same, rather, fair means everyone gets what they need” coupled with genuine, sincere, deep-seated love for each and every child will bring the varied temperaments and personalities of your offspring together more effectively than anything else. We must constantly strive to demonstrate in thought, word and deed that we will indeed do anything necessary for our children’s well-being. Once they realize it, they will be loyal and respectful of us and positively connected to each other.
Best wishes for a calm, unified and peaceful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann