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A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 11/23/18

I love Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful holiday when shared with family and friends.

Yet there are times when holiday cheer is disrupted by discord. Sometimes it’s a minor matter like two young cousins squabbling over a toy or aunts competing over who makes the best pie.

Family gatherings turn tense when old issues resurface. Long simmering resentments can burst out at the most unexpected moments, threatening to ruin the get together.

I do not know whether Jacob and Esau enjoyed many happy Thanksgivings. Though twins, they were as different as two brothers could be. After supplanting his older brother and deceiving their father, Isaac, Jacob had to flee from his brother’s wrath.

In this week’s parasha, Jacob returns to his homeland after twenty years. He is fearful whether Esau will still seek vengeance.

Fortunately, things turn out better than Jacob expected. The brothers embrace one another. Are they fully reconciled? Jacob decides not to push things too far. When Esau offers to accompany Jacob on his journey home, Jacob declines. Esau heads off toward Seir, while Jacob travels in a different direction toward Succot.

Jacob recognized that he needed space in his relationship with his brother.

This is a vital insight all of us can learn when it comes to familial relations that are tense and conflicted. Sometimes the best thing we can do to allow relationships to flourish is to create space, both physical and psychic. Setting boundaries can reduce feelings of vulnerability and promote understanding and respect.

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