Family Parsha Parshat Toldot: Strong Words
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Toldot(Genesis 25:19-28:9)

Strong Words


When people get into a conflict, it may seem the only way out is to fight it out. But the Torah teaches us there is a better way. Unlike his warlike brother, Esau, our forefather Jacob's way was to use his mouth and try to talk things out and settle them peacefully whenever possible. We, his descendants, can learn from him that our real strength is often found not in our fists, but our words.

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In our story, a couple of kids discover there's more than one way to settle the score.

"HANDS DOWN"

      "Don't forget - three o'clock sharp, in the park, and be ready to fight!" said Marc, with steam nearly coming out of his ears.

      "Don't worry," answered an equally angry looking Larry, "I'll be there! I'll see you then, unless you chicken out that, that is!"

      The two boys, despite being in the same class, were not exactly what you would call the best of friends. Everything one of them would do would just annoy the daylights out of the other. To say they rubbed each other the wrong way was an understatement. Trouble had been brewing between them for a long time now, and they were finally going to fight it out, once and for all.

      The 'rules' they made up were to fight bare-fisted, and each of them could bring along one friend to lend a hand. Marc knew just the guy to ask, and if he agreed to come, he was sure he would have the fight won, before it even started...

      Big Jake Howard wasn't just big - he was HUGE. The kid just seemed to be made out of iron, and his hands looked like they were wearing baseball gloves, even when they weren't. He also happened to be one of Marc's best friends. He was sure that one look at Big Jake would be enough to sink Larry six feet into the ground.

      He walked over to Big Jake, who was just coming out of class.

      "Hey Marc, how's it going? I just learned something really interesting about Jacob and Esau."

      This was hardly the time for a history lesson, and Marc cut the boy off and started to tell him every good reason why Larry deserved to be crushed and pulverized. "So, will you come, buddy. Will you help me out?"

      Big Jake scratched his head a moment, cracked his giant knuckles, and said, "If you need my help, then why not?"

      Marc couldn't stop smiling. With Big Jake at his side, it was all over before it even started.

      The two of them got to the park. Marc sneered when he saw Larry in the distance, and saw that he had had brought with him a kid named 'Shark.' He was pretty tough kid, but compared to Jake, the 'Shark' was just a goldfish.

      The combatants eyed each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Finally Larry lifted his fist to hit Marc, but he had barely begun to move when Jake, with lightening speed, flashed out one of his giant hands and grabbed Larry by the collar, dangling him mid-air like a little puppy.

      Marc took it as his signal to make his move, but just as he raised his fist, he suddenly felt himself swinging high in the air. "What in the...?"

      He looked up and realized Jake had lifted him up with his other hand. Meanwhile, 'Shark' had swum off in the other direction, not waiting around to become the third layer in Big Jake's 'people sandwich.'

      The two swinging boys squirmed around for a couple of minutes and then gave up, realizing there was no way they were getting down until Jake put them down.

      "Hey Jake," said Marc, "C'mon man, what's going on? Didn't you come here to help me settle things with this kid?"

      Jake smiled, "That's right. You guys are going to settle things right here and now."

      "So put us down and let us fight it out!" demanded Larry from his perch.

      Jake shook his big head. "Listen guys, I'm gonna put you down, but you're not going to fight it out. You're going to talk it out."

      With that, he plunked the two boys down on a bench, and gave them a look that made sure they would listen.

      "As I was saying to you before, Marc, today I learned about how Jacob, our forefather was different from Esau. Esau would settle things with his fists, but Jacob believed in using his mouth, and making peace by talking things out. Now we are Jacob's descendants - and even though I could easily let these big hands of mine do my talking, I don't, because it's not the right way. And neither should you. Now let's sit down and talk this thing out until it's solved. Deal?"

      Marc looked at Larry, and Larry looked at Marc. They both looked at Jake and knew the big guy was right. With the big guy's help, the two of them started talking things out, and were surprised to realize that once they tried to really communicate, they could work out most of the problems between them without fighting. From then on, Larry and Marc got along much better, all thanks to the big guy with the strong hands who taught them a way to use their mouths, and be even stronger.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Marc feel when Jake first agreed to come with him?
A. He hoped Jake was going to use his strength to help him beat up his enemy.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt glad that Jake had helped him make up with Larry instead.


Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think that Jake's solution was a good one? Why or why not?,
A. Even though the boys felt like they had no choice but to fight, Jake showed them that they actually could work things out peacefully, by talking them out, and prevented them from hurting each other for no reason.

Q. Can problems always be settled by talking instead of fighting?
A. There are very rare times, like when we are in genuine physical danger, when we may have no choice but to fight. We can almost always come to live peacefully with others if both sides are willing to talk it out.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Does it take more strength to fight things out or to talk them out? Why?
A. There are different types of strength. Physical strength, the strength of our hands is one level. But there is a much higher level called moral, or spiritual strength. This higher level strength often calls upon us to refrain from the impulse to pick up our fists, but instead to put them down, and work out any conflicts we may have in a thoughtful and non-violent manner.

Q. Would you say that quarreling and name calling falls under the category of Jacob's way of settling things, or Esau's?
A. At first it might seem like Jacob's, since it involves using one's mouth instead of one's fists. However verbal violence is still violence. It is essentially using one's mouth as a fist, and is a very unspiritual way of dealing with conflict. It is not enough to use our mouths, but we have to use them properly, to heal and not to harm.


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Published: November 6, 2004

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