What’s the best way to accomplish your goals? The Torah teaches us to use gentle persuasion, not heavy-handed coercion.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
The week’s Torah portion is “Vayeitzei” (Genesis 28:10–32:3) and in it we read about the very turbulent relationship between Jacob and his father-in-law Laban. Among the many injustices that Laban wrought upon Jacob was tricking him into marrying Leah when he had just spent the last seven years working for Laban in order to marry the other sister, Rachel. Jacob had to then work another seven years in order to marry Rachel. Laban was a crook of the first degree.
Toward the end of the reading, we are told that “Jacob saw that the face of Laban was not like it was yesterday and the day before.” Jacob noticed that Laban looked different and was acting differently. Something was different about Laban, and it wasn’t good. God then appeared to Jacob and told him to take his wives and children and catch the first flight back to the land of Israel.
That night, Jacob called together the entire family for a meeting and he explained to them why it was important for them to leave town. It wasn’t easy for Rachel and Leah to pick and go with only several hours notice but they were indeed convinced by Jacob that it wasn’t healthy for them to remain with Laban anymore and they agreed to leave.
But the question is asked: God is the one who told Jacob to leave town. If God would have come to any of us, we would have simply told our wives and children that God said that we gotta go, and that would be it! Why does Jacob call the family for a meeting and start presenting arguments why they should leave? Why didn’t he just get the suitcases out and say “get packing! God said so!”?
It is explained that we learn from here that we should never force anything on anyone, even when it is an order that comes from the most “senior management.” Instead of making demands and laying down the law, we must present the issue gently, slowly, and explain why it is the best thing to do. This is especially true when it comes to one’s family. Nobody wants to be coerced into doing anything. People want to be able to realize for themselves that something is the right thing to do.
The lesson: Always persuade…never impose.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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