Friday, November 30, 2007


All In The Family
By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

The Family Systems psychological approach can be summed up in the words of one of its leading practitioners: "there are no such things as individuals, only fragments of families." Family can't be escaped from. That's the way the world is and it seems that's the way that it’s supposed to be.

Joy is ubiquitous in families. And so is pain. But pain is so much a part of the picture that without it the thing would be devalued to the point of worthlessness, like a coin that's smooth on one side.

Rashi tells us at a certain point Yaakov wants to rest in peace on earth. G-d says that it should be enough to rest in Olam HaBa, because peace in this world is elusive for a tzadik. And then comes the story of Yosef.

The Gemora addresses a pasuk (Yishayahu 29:22) that seems to state that Yaakov saved(was podeh) Avraham. The Gemorah asks when and how Yaakov redeemed his grandfather.The Gemora explains that Yaakov spared Avraham from tzaar gidul banim – the difficulty of raising children. Rashi explains this to mean that by raising twelve children Yaakov saved Avraham and Yitzchak from that pain. Tosafot disagrees and says that the normal difficulties of raising children are not referred to as pain but as joy(ein zu tzaar elah simcha). Tosafot says that the tzaar referred to here is the strife between Yosef and his brothers.

According to Tosafot difficulties in raising a family are considered normal. Even sibling rivalry is an appropriate part of life. Avraham and Yitzchak were spared from the extremes of the Yosef incident. But let's not forget that they each had strife between their own children. They were no strangers to pain within their family life.

Is it a coincidence that the lesson of "Bikesh Yaakov Leisheiv BeShalva" is taught in the context of familial turbulence? Perhaps the Torah is teaching us here that in striving to be a tzadik and yearning for peace we shouldn’t idealize family life to the extent that we exclude from our realities pain in this setting. It's part of the package for all of us.

The next time we look at friends and assume their family life to be the Osmands or the Bradies, we should remind ourselves that those families were not as perfect as they seemed. And we shouldn't over idealize even the family life of Yaakov
because G-d showed him that the pain was supposed to be there.

May G-d bless us with as much peace as we're allowed to have and as much growth as possible. And may it all happen in as pleasant a way as possible.


rr said...


rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thank you. Shabbat Shalom and G-d Bless.