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Establishing Roles

By Five Towns Marriage Initiative

“Vayikra Yaakov el banav vayomer haiasfu . . .” (Bereishis 49:1-2). In this week’s parashah, our forefather Yaakov was on his deathbed. He gathered his children around him, and he blessed them. Commentators question why Yaakov blessed each one of his sons in front of the other brothers, instead of blessing them in private. Wouldn’t blessing them in front of each other create jealousy among the brothers?

One explanation offered is that Yaakov deliberately blessed each child in front of his brothers in order to teach an important lesson to his children. Each child was given a specific role, as was reflected in his personal blessing. By saying it in public, Yaakov was making the roles very clear. His intention was to impress upon his children that everyone has his unique task in the Jewish nation, based on his specific strengths, talents, and personality.

All of the shevatim (Yaakov’s sons) were to work together to fulfill their role so the nation would be complete. There was to be one shevet that will bring forth kings, one shevet of teachers, one shevet of priests, one shevet of merchants, and on and on. Together, all of these disparate parts needed to function as one nation. Had Yaakov blessed the children in private, it perhaps would have led to disagreements and disunity as different brothers fought to fill the same role.

In a marriage, each partner brings specific strengths, talents, and personalities to the union. If the husband focuses on the roles that he can fill with his unique combination of traits, and the wife focuses on the roles that she can fill with her unique combination of traits, then the marriage can be a strong and healthy one. Recognizing each spouse’s unique abilities can result in a decreased level of stress in the relationship and increased positive feelings, as each person engages in the activities that he or she is best suited for. This, in turn, will lead to each spouse appreciating the important roles that each play in the marriage, since only he can fix the faucet, and only she knows how to get the car started when it stalls.

Let us learn from the lesson Yaakov was teaching his children and recognize, both in ourselves and in our spouses, the unique roles we fill in our relationships. May Hashem help us to use this awareness to improve our shalom bayis and create smoother, more positive relationships. v

Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail

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Posted by on December 12, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.