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Explain Yourself

By Rabbi Yehonatan Salem

Yaakov Avinu  was instructed by his parents to go to the house   of Lavan to find himself a spouse. He ended up marrying Lavan’s daughters, Rachel and Leah, for whom he worked tirelessly for fourteen years, to be able to establish the twelve tribes. After having been there for twenty years and becoming wealthy, G-d appeared to Yaakov and told him to leave and return to the Land   of Canaan. Yaakov summoned Rachel and Leah to the fields for an important meeting. He explained to them a whole rationale why it would be a good idea for them to leave their father’s home, and then, at the end, he mentioned that G-d had instructed him to do so. Their reaction was that there was no reason for them to stay there, and thus, if Hashem had told Yaakov to go, he should do that.

The Shelah makes note of the fact that although G-d had commanded Yaakov explicitly to leave, when he broached the subject with Rachel and Leah (Vayetze 31:4-16), he nevertheless began by explaining the reasons why it would be advisable for them to move to Eretz Canaan. Yaakov Avinu chose not to enforce the matter by saying that they must go, even though he was divinely commanded to do so. Additionally, he did not exploit his position  as “leader of the house” to force them to listen to him. He merely reasoned with them, until they understood by themselves what was needed to be done, and were willing to do so.

From this the Shelah derives, that when a decision needs to be made or an action needs to be taken that affects the household. One should do so with mutual understanding and agreement, rather than by forcing one’s opinion on others. Even if the husband has decided that a certain course of action is the correct thing to do, he should present and explain his opinion to his spouse, to see how she feels about it, and get her agreement before he proceeds.

For a husband to enforce his opinion is not healthy for a marriage. One should try, as much as possible, to ensure that one’s spouse understands one’s reasoning, so that they will be on the same wavelength. This promotes the harmony and unity in the marriage, and enables their relationship to be one of mutual understanding and love, due to a common opinion being shared.

Furthermore, when children see that their parents share the same opinion and have a common understanding. This gives them a sense of stability and strength, as well as discipline and guidelines for life. This enables them to develop healthily, have a strong backbone and eventually, when they get married, to emulate the harmony that they witnessed with their parents.

Anotherlessonthatwecanlearnfrom Yaakov Avinu, isthepleasant and personable way in which he presented his argument. Even a reprimand, when delivered in a pleasant manner, will be listened to. Conversely, instilling fear in one’s household only backfires and can be the cause of terrible tragedies.

If we put in effort to make ourselves understood in a pleasant manner, we will enjoy a stronger and healthier relationship with our families.

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