Perhaps the most distressing aspect of raising children, for those parents blessed with two or more children, is the inability of their children to get along with each other. Sibling rivalry can tear at the fabric of a happy home, and many parents simply are at a loss of what to do. Their sweet, charming children are so good at almost everything, except being kind and patient with each other.
The situation may seem even more perplexing, when parents become aware that outside the house, the children will stand up for each other to the `nth’ degree. Before you dismiss that phenomenon as just another proof that your kids are out to get you, think about the fact that they are actually following in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu.
This week’s Parsha details the relationship and subsequent falling-out between Avraham and his nephew and brother-in-law, Lot. This was not mere family trouble – this was a clash of ideology that compelled Avraham to separate from his nephew. And yet, despite this estrangement, when Avraham heard that Lot was captured in battle, Avraham put his life in danger in order to attempt to save Lot.
Rabbi Herschel Becker, in his Sefer, Love Peace, points out that Avraham’s attitude towards Lot was based not on Lot’s failings, but that he was a brother. He relates the story of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski zt’l, leader of Lithuanian Jewry between the two World Wars, who once excused himself from a meeting of the most distinguished Rabbis of the time, to converse with a relative, a simple man, who came calling. When asked to explain his actions, Rav Chaim Ozer cited the Halacha that while a distinguished person may, for example, be allowed to turn aside from picking up a lost article worth only a penny, when it comes to showing compassion for a relative, there is no such dispensation. He quoted the Pasuk in Yeshaya (58:7) that states: From your flesh, you may not turn aside. You are obligated to be there for your relative.
No matter the health of your children’s relationship with each other within the family dynamics, you should focus on and stress this idea that brothers (and sisters) are there for each other. If they are loyal to each other outside the home – celebrate this most important behavior. If they’re not loyal even outside, encourage them and teach them the lesson of Avraham Avinu – loyalty is not dependent on the other’s behavior, but on family bond that is precious and most worthy of strengthening in any way possible.
May your Shabbos be peaceful and well-connected,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann