Sibling Rivalry

I recently attended a family reunion. My parents were there, as well as my brothers with their wives and kids. My brothers are very bitter toward my parents, and have also distanced themselves from me. I think my brothers are jealous of me because I am the only daughter, and I got more attention growing up.

I really want to be close with my family. I have no hard feelings and want to get along. What can I do to have a better relationship with my brothers? The current situation is very painful for me.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is truly frustrating to experience negativity toward us when in reality we did nothing wrong.

But first of all, you need to realize that other people's free will is not in your hands. While you can encourage them in a good direction, ultimately they make their own decisions in life.

How can you build a relationship with your brothers in the future? Here are some suggestions:

1) Send greeting cards to commemorate various holiday or special events, such as Rosh Hashana, a Bar mitzvah, wedding, birth of a child, etc. Snail mail is much better than electronic. Even if you don't hear back from them, just keep sending the cards. Also, call on special occasions to wish them well.

2) Don't hesitate to build an independent relationship with your nieces and nephews. Eventually, these kids will grow up, go off to college, and make their own lives. There is no reason that the tension between you and your brothers should carry over into these relationships as well.

3) Think about your brothers and generate love in your heart. It has a long-distance effect.

4) Make sure this sibling rivalry does not repeat itself with your own children. One of the most beautiful customs in Jewish life is for parents to bless their children at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. Girls receive the blessing: "May God make you like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah." Boys are blessed – not to be like the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – but rather “like Ephraim and Menashe." Why?

One explanation is that Ephraim and Menashe were the first set of Jewish brothers who did not fight. Abraham's two sons – Isaac and Ishmael – could not get along, and their disagreements form the basis of the Arab-Israeli conflict till today. Isaac's two sons – Jacob and Esav – were so contentious that Esav repeatedly sought to kill Jacob and instructed his descendants to do the same. Even Jacob's own sons stumbled when they sold their brother Joseph to slavery in Egypt.

This explains why, when Jacob blessed the Ephraim and Menashe, he purposely switched his hands, blessing the younger Ephraim before the older Menashe. Jacob wished to emphasize there was no rivalry between these brothers. (see Genesis 48:13-14)

It is with this thought that parents bless their children today. For there is no greater blessing than peace among siblings. And it is this same hope that God holds for all the Jewish people. May the days of peace come soon.

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