PARSHAT VAYESHEV: TRANQUILITY VS. GROWTH
By Sherrie B. Miller
“AND YAAKOV SAT…” (Breishit 37:1)
We just read the powerful story in last week’s Parshat Vayishlach, which related
the intense and debilitating struggle between Yaakov and the guardian angel of Esau!
(Breishit 32:25-31.) The great Patriarch Yaakov, spent the entire night fighting
Esau’s angel who was disguised as a man. Essentially, this battle was the eternal
one, the struggle between good and evil, which manifests itself in man’s capacity
to perfect himself and Satan’s determination to destroy him spiritually.
The challenge was met and Yaakov defeated the evil angel as the sun rose. Despite
this awesome victory, Yaakov was left with a dislocated hip. One would imagine that
after all that he’d been through, Jacob had earned a respite, some peace and serenity,
some time to literally catch his breath. Yet, according to Rashi Jacob was criticized
for entertaining such a notion: “Jacob asked (be-kesh) to live in tranquility, and
was immediately faced with the ordeal of Joseph’s slavery. The tzaddikim want to
live in peace, but G-d says, “is it not enough for the tzaddikim the reward that
I’ve prepared for them in Olam Haba, that they need to ask for tranquility and peace
in this world as well?
The message comes out loud and clear. This world is a world that we are given for
a finite numbers of years, and it is a world of struggle with challenges and choices
that require us to commit to our highest and most sacred values. The choice is ours.
We can choose the easy road of laying back and “going with the flow,” doing what
comes naturally and easily, or alternatively, focus on making my life a mission
of accomplishment and growth. This is the purpose of Hashem’s design in putting
us on this earth to perfect ourselves. When each of us strives for self-perfection,
we are well on the road to Tikun Olam, G-d’s desire to be our partner in repairing
and reuniting the world.
Midrashim tell us that G-d has called out the names of each man and woman destined
to be married. Sounds easy! So what’s the seemingly endless list of glitches?
What people must realize, is that there is a certain necessary effort that must
be expended to find one’s bashert and more importantly, the crucial knowledge that
now that I have found true love, and I am married, I think that I’ve made a home
run and can sit back and expect a life of tranquility. This is not so: Opportunities
for growth are only outgrowths of working through “issues.”
Happiness is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it. Conflict
is a natural and inevitable part of human relationships. The conflict brings about
the issues that require further clarification and further understanding which inevitably
lead to a much richer and deeper relationship. At many transitional stages of marriage,
we are encouraged re-choose our partner. This seemingly unnecessary exercise is
a reminder that we are distinct from animals due to our freedom of choice, and our
marriage will be enhanced as we work through the inevitable challenges and realization
that we are not identical; we have different opinions, different needs, and different
We must appreciate the differences, as they were custom made for our potential growth
and enrich our relationship exponentially.
Many people are looking for the “perfect” one; they believe that there is just one
person that is perfectly suited for them. This is just not the case.
G-d is referred to as the Ultimate Matchmaker and is described as having difficulties
with it, just as the splitting of the red sea. Each moment, even after the marriage,
G- d in his infinite Wisdom as facing us with challenges that create the opportunities
for spiritual and emotional growth. The first stage of dating and marriage is called
the “honey moon.” There is complete identity one with the other, a feeling of sameness
and likeness and a sense of being in a bubble where no one else exists in the world.
Usually, within a year the predicted stage of power struggle sets in as each begins
to see the flaws of their partner that they ignored in the first stages of courtship.
(Otherwise, we could never have married that partner,)
The work and the commitment to focus on my flaws, is a lifetime endeavor.
If I am involved in the task of being the best I can be, no matter how much effort
it requires, then I will be zoche to find a similar match: someone who is also looking
not to change their future spouse, but to change the only person that they can change:
themselves! Then this couple will be on the path to a blissful marriage. Each is
seeking to be the kindest, the gentlest, the most caring person that they can be.
With this formula, almost any two people can be happily married!
This world is for working, for struggling, aiming for clarification in order to
reach the deepest and most connected relationship with G-D. He created the example
of Husband and Wife as a blueprint to help us reach the highest connection of all
Marriage is the most authentic arena for working on ourselves, often through the
positive and sometimes negative feedback of our spouse. They know us best!
As Rav David Aron states: “Real love will always have challenges. And the challenges
are precisely what preserve the freshness and potency of the love. Often people
get married and try to avoid problems, conflict, and confrontation. However, if
there is no possibility for fights then there is also no possibility for love. In
fact, many lovers will admit that when they make up after a good fight, they actually
feel even closer to each other than before the fight. Jacob understood that love
is revitalized through conflict; in the name of love he embraced conflict.”
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish Matchmaker
on SawYouAtSinai.com and works with
Jewish Singles all over the world. She is an educational guidance counselor,
group leader, pre-marital coach, matchmaker and Judaic Studies teacher. Sherrie
is dedicated to promoting and enhancing emotional intelligence and communication
skills in conjunction with Torah values.
Sherrie received her educational counseling degree from the Michlalah in Bayit Vegan
and an M.A. in Education and Counseling from Touro College, Jerusalem, Israel. Sherrie
also holds a B.A. in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Brooklyn College and a
B.Sc. from Yeshiva University in Jewish Education. Sherrie is certified by Midreshet
Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital couple’s
counselor and Kallah teacher.
Before coming to Israel in 1989 from Great Neck, New York, Sherrie taught Judaic
Studies at the North Shore Hebrew Academy. Sherrie also educated affiliated and
unaffiliated adults through the “Project Identity” outreach program under the directorship
of Rabbi Yaakov Lerner. Sherrie trained individuals and couples in the laws of Kashrut,
Guidelines of Parenting, Parshat Shavua and Pirkei Avot.
In her work as a Guidance Counselor in the national religious “Mamad” school, "Yehuda
Halevi", Sherrie instructed life skill workshops to students, parents and teachers,
with a focus on communication, conflict resolution and anger management. She also
leads support groups for children of divorce.
Sherrie is certified by the Life Center and leads Parenting workshops based on the
Faber/Mazlish workshops on, “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids
Sherrie is an executive board member of the Emunah World Zionist Organization, Mibreishit,
led by Rav Motti Alon, and Nishmat led my Rabbanit Hanna Henkin.
Sherrie’s diverse background in counseling and teaching, combined with torah principles
and values contribute to the depth and quality of her success with clients. Lessons
drawn from her own life transitions make her coaching perspective uniquely inspirational.
Sherrie helps individuals clarify their goals and take masterful action steps to
reach them. Sherrie is professionally known for her guidance in the educational
system as well as her outstanding capabilities teaching interpersonal relationship
skills to groups and individuals.
Having made a number of successful matches resulting in marriage, Sherrie volunteers
as a matchmaker for SawYouAtSinai, an internet matchmaking site.