Posts tagged " Genesis 32 "

A Finished Product?

December 1st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Names in the Bible are not just names, When the twins, Yaakov and Eisav (Jacob and Esau) are born, their names don’t only reflect their physical traits but spiritual ones as well.  Eisav’s name is from the word “asui”, meaning, made or finished. Yaakov was named from the word “eikev,” meaning heel. Yes, Eisav’s name reflected his mature physical features and Yaakov was born grasping Eisav’s heel, but that is not the complete story.

Eisav’s philosophy in life was one of “asui”, “I’m finished, I’m done growing. Whatever I am today is what I will always be.”  Not surprisingly, since he was not future-oriented, he didn’t value his first-born status and was ready to sell it.

Yaakov, however, always saw himself at the heel of life, at the bottom of a growth trajectory, which, throughout his life, he strived to climb day in and day out.  Yaakov knows that even if today he has nothing, that does not reflect tomorrow.

An Eisav worldview is one of complacency and accepting today’s experience as tomorrow’s reality.  No hope of change, no struggle to change.  Yaakov, on the other hand, sees today as only a tiny start, a small step on the ladder of life.  He is always struggling, always growing, always changing.  You’ll recall, that in chapter 32 Yaakov received another name after he struggled and prevailed in the fight with an angel.  The angel gave him the name “Yisrael – because you struggled against angel and people, and you prevailed.”  Wouldn’t we expect his name to reflect the words “you prevailed”!  After all, that’s what was so noticeable about this encounter.  Instead, the name “Yisrael” comes from the word, “sarisa”you struggled, you wrestled.  Yaakov isn’t about the final success, he’s about the struggle to get there.  Yaakov is all about the process, growth, change, never about the final product.

The Yaakov attitude is at the heart of a believing person’s life.  We don’t believe that we are locked into today’s reality or must accept today’s limited position as a given.  We are forward-thinking, always seeing hope, and working towards a beautiful future.  This quality becomes incredibly obvious and incredibly important when raising children.  We have to remember that a stage is just a stage. Our children are works in progress who are constantly growing and changing.  Today’s limits, today’s struggles, are just part of the process of maturation.  Feeling stuck has no place in our families.

When we’re in the middle of a challenging phase it’s easy to forget that this is temporary, but the message from Yaakov is to see ourselves always at the heel, always climbing higher and higher.  We, and our children, keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep striving, we keep building, and one day at a time we grow.

Our job is to share this mindset with our children.  Our kids pick up on the labels and limitations, and they sometimes believe they are defined by them.  “I’m not good at learning,” “I’m irresponsible,” “I’m disruptive,” and more.  We want to be the voice that reminds our children that today’s struggles lead to tomorrow’s victories.  None of us are limited to today’s reality. There is no magic moment when we pass or fail life, rather until the day we die we are in the process, winning some, losing some, but always changing, always growing.

We can all use this reminder that life isn’t static.  However rough today was, tomorrow can be better.  Both names, Yaakov and Yisrael, remind us to embrace growth, focus on the process of development, and never succumb to the static fatalism of Eisav.  This is a message for all of us, mothers who sometimes feel stuck in a difficult stage of parenting or life, and for us to share with our children who need to be reminded that today’s mistakes are the stepping stones to tomorrow’s growth.

My Children, My Brothers?

December 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 6 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

The Torah stresses respect from children for parents, so a verse in Genesis should raise eyebrows. Let’s take a look at Jacob’s relationship with his sons after they have left Haran and are on their way back to the Land of  Israel. (Genesis 31) Rachel and Leah’s father Laban pursued Jacob and eventually Jacob and Laban made a non-aggression pact over a mound of stones.  Verse 46 says, “And Jacob said to his brothers, ‘Gather stones,’ and they gathered stones and made a mound.” 

Jacob spoke to his brothers?  What brothers did he have there?  Rashi, a key transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, tells us, “heim banav,”these were his sons who were his brothers in arm, and partners joining with him at times of trouble and hostility.

Isn’t that interesting?  Is this similar to modern touchy-feely philosophy of being your children’s best friend? Not at all. Jacob’s children, at times, became his partners, like brothers, to join with him and come to his aid, not to reduce him to come to their level. 

I like this verse because so often parents feel unsure about asking their children to contribute and help out at home.  They wonder when it’s okay and how much is okay.  While it is possible to have unhealthy dynamics when a parent relies on a child’s help too heavily or uses a child as a crutch, this verse is a good reminder to us that it is important for our children to be partners with us.  Helping out at home, not only gives a child important opportunities to build life skills and confidence, but it also makes them feel important and valuable because they have contributions to make to their family.

I recently went with my mother and one of my children to watch a documentary about adolescence, technology, and mental health.  They reported a study where researchers put mothers and their children alone in a room and gave each child a puzzle to solve that was meant to be too hard for him or her. The researchers were inducing failure in the child while the mother watched.  The mothers were told not to interfere or help their child with the puzzle, but inevitably, the mothers stepped in and helped their kids with the challenge. 

Here’s the fascinating piece.  When the mothers stepped in to help, their own stress levels (heart rate, cortisol level, etc.)  went down, but their children’s stress levels went up!  By taking away their children’s opportunity to work through a difficult challenge on their own and stepping in to take control of the situation, the mothers felt better but their kids felt worse. 

Our children need to have opportunities to tackle big jobs, they need a chance to be our “brothers” and partners, helping us with cooking, yard maintenance, cleaning, and many other areas where we can allow them the opportunity to stretch, grow, and be in partnership with us. Rather than focusing on how we can help them, let us allow them to help us and stretch and grow in the process.

Are You a Pious Pushover?

March 19th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Anyone who spends any time in neighborhoods populated by Bible-believing, religiously inclined people, knows that, for the most part, such people are kinder, gentler, more empathetic and more compassionate than the general population.  Sometimes, however, unselfish behavior can morph into unwarranted meekness and timidity.

Here are five questions that might help determine if you have allowed your own goodness to be exploited by others less restrained than you.

  • Do you always deflect adversarial encounters?
  • Is being liked more important than standing your ground?
  • Do you often tell yourself, “I’m just too tired to argue”?
  • Do you frequently resent how “pushy people” seem to get their way and pride yourself on not being pushy?
  • Do you sometimes feel embarrassed after standing firm and ‘winning’?

If you answered ‘yes’ to three or more of those questions, what’s to be done?  As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom points to the Bible for help.  Remember that we learn as much from the flaws of Biblical personalities as we do from their greatness.


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