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Parshas Vayeshev

Sibling Rivalry


In this week’s parashah, we read the story of Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers. This is one of those vexing, painful incidents that are difficult to comprehend. How can brothers be so callous? How can they be so cruel? By closely examining this passage from the Torah, we can gain some insight.


The Torah states, “They saw him (Joseph) from afar, and when he had not yet approached them they consider against him to kill him.” The words “from afar” and “he had not yet approached” seem to be redundant. It would apparently have sufficed to say “…they conspired against him” why stress that he had not yet approached? Hatred can only prevail in hearts where there is no communication. The brothers saw him from a distance because they did not allow him to approach them: it’s easier to condemn, resent, and hate from afar. This distancing was the tragedy that let to the betrayal of Joseph by his brethren. 


To prevent such deterioration in relationships, the Torah commands us, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,” calling upon us to resolve our differences and not allow animosity and hatred to fester within us. Let’s try to apply this teaching to our personal lives: let us communicate in an amicable and civilized manner with those against whom we harbor resentment. We must do this, not only for the sake of others, but more - for our own sake. When jealousy and hatred are permitted to overtake us, they can literally consume us and render us bitter, angry people who not only destroy others, but more significantly, destroy ourselves.


If we wish to eliminate the rivalries and controversies (as subtle as they may be) in our own families, we have to learn to communicate with respect, “judge each person favorably” and give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, isn’t that what we wish others to do for us? Focus on rendering qualities rather than on their character flaws, and you will find that life will be more pleasant and relationships more rewarding. 


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis