Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Vayishlach - Wisdom of Timing

Parshas Vayishlach is the Parsha of the maturation of the Shvatim. In Parshas Vayeitzei, most of them were born, but in Parshas Vayishlach they entered adolescence and spread their wings. Not surprisingly, Parshas Vayishlach is when Yaakov began to have trouble with them. Between Dina’s going out independently to meet the daughters of the land with disastrous consequences, Shimon and Levi’s impetuous attack on the people of Shechem, and Reuvein’s interference in his father’s marriages, Yaakov had his hands full. Not surprisingly, he rebuked his children for their actions, but what is surprising is when he rebuked them. Amazingly, even after Shimon and Levi wiped out the entire male population of Shchem, Yaakov only gav a backhanded criticism, “You’ve made me look bad and put us in danger”, but then he let his sons have the final word of that conversation. Yaakov seemed to drop the matter. We know of course, that Yaakov only put his rebuke on hold. He waited many, many years until his deathbed to address Reuvein, Shimon, and Levi with strongly worded criticism for their actions. Why? He knew that his rebuke would be most effective when it was given at that point and Yaakov’s criticism to his children wasn’t for his sake. It wasn’t to get it off his chest, it wasn’t because he couldn’t stop himself from reacting, it wasn’t because he blew a fuse, on the contrary, he wanted to speak for his children’s sakes, not his own. And that required biding his time, waiting until the moment was right. This principle is so important for parents. When we have negative feedback or critical pointers to share with our older children, we want to bide our time and wait until the time is right when they are receptive. A two year old needs to be told “no” immediately, and we don’t learn this principle from Yaakov in Vayeitzei when his children were just born. We learn it in Vayishlach when his children were older and more independent. At that stage, effective parents learn to bite our tongues and wait. Because chinuch is for our children’s sake not our own. At the moment we feel a burning urge to say something, when we’re so frustrated and we want to spit it out, that is precisely the wrong time to talk to our teenagers. Yaakov provides a powerful example for us in parenting - there is no rush to rebuke. We can wait, pick our moment, and only speak when we are doing it for the sake of our children’s growth, at the time and moment that is right for them.