Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Good evening. This is Simon Jacobson with Toward a Meaningful Life. Let me welcome
you back after our small hiatus for two weeks due to very
important programming, but now we’re back and I welcome
must say that after our last two shows, there was a really
overwhelmingly positive response which were evoked by the
topics: “Honoring Parents Who Don’t Seem to Deserve Honor”
and “Anger.” We got many angry callers for that last show,
and it elicited, both on air and following the show, such
interesting responses that it gives me direction—I’ve always
said that my attempt for this show is to make it a grassroots
type of “voice of the listener” with me as just a sounding
board, even though I do the speaking. But I believe that speaking
is really about listening and when you listen to the vibes
and pick up what people are really concerned with—their issues
and dilemmas—it becomes a real guideline and powerful directing
force that really allows me, and the Meaningful Life Center,
which I have the privilege to head, to provide material, including
this show, to respond to that need.
based on many of the emails and requests that I’ve received,
I’ll be doing a series of different shows in the next few
weeks that cover the different vices—we’ll call it the “Vice
Series” perhaps—whether it’s anger, or jealousy, or hostilities
or procrastination, or some of the other negative emotional
struggles that we have. But following the show on “Honoring
Your Parents,” several people wrote to me and asked if we
could do a show about siblings.
in an interesting way, can sometimes be even more complicated
than our relationship with our parents, which often is black
or white. You have healthy parents or unhealthy parents—but
a sibling relationship is not like an authority relationship
of child and parent, where one is an authority and the other
is on the receiving end. Siblings are on more of an equal
basis, and as they grow up their relationships are often more
whether we’ll title this show “Sibling Rivalry” or “What Our
Responsibilities Are to Our Siblings”—brothers and sisters—this
is the topic we’ll be addressing this evening. As always,
I’d like to hear your comments and feedback and your experiences.
Most of us out there have either a brother or sister or both,
or several siblings, and the relationships are complicated.
myself am the oldest of five children, so being the oldest,
on the one hand, you are the first to come around, but on
the other hand, you also become the person who “victimizes”
your younger siblings, whether it is because of their illusion
of what you are or as an older brother, and the relationships
are quite interesting.
a matter of fact, I was trying to get one of my own siblings
to call in, to have it out here on the air, but I wasn’t able
to reach any of them. But if one of my siblings is listening,
please call and I won’t mind having an argument with you on
the air, and we can perhaps air out some of the battles or
difficulties, or even good experiences, that we’ve had.
have a sister who lives in Connecticut who is two years younger
than I am, and I have very pleasant memories of her when we
were growing up. But I also have memories of pulling each
other’s hair and tearing each other’s books, and other general
rivalries and battles that go on: who’s the favorite with
the parents, etc. In my case, I remember my sister always
being able to run to my father and get sympathy and I would
get a dirty look or worse than that. The whole thing is a
very interesting dynamic.
like to address this topic both on a practical level and on
a root level. Often people come speak to me, and when you
really get down to the many issues that people struggle with
in their own lives, the obvious culprit is always their father
or mother. But often when you dig deeper, you find that the
relationship with your siblings is connected with many of
our particular issues.
general, our home life is the foundation of our lives. The
place where we grow up in those impressionable years, a "silent"
environment with no observers. Nobody’s really ever done extensive
studies of our home-life
because remember, as soon as an anthropologist or a sociologist
begins to study the home, they immediately are affecting the
dynamic. Real home-life is non-observable, and what is happening
behind closed doors in our homes is really between our parents,
ourselves, and our brothers and sisters.
pathology, healthy and unhealthy, that is created as a result,
is really fascinating and, more importantly, it shapes who
we are. When people share their different struggles with me—whether
they’re having difficulty finding a healthy relationship or
other intimacy issues, or just in general, coping at work,
trying to make ends meet and live some type of happy life—I
always ask them about their relationship with their parents
often tend to minimize and trivialize their sibling relationships,
as in, “I don’t really talk to my brother.” Or, “I rarely
talk to my brother or my sister.” But the truth is, that is
very revealing, because how we interact with the people who
are closest to us—those with whom we’ve literally sat side
by side at dinners, breakfasts, parties, and even slept in
the same bedroom as young children—are the first relationship
that we really have before we go out into the world. It precedes
our relationships with our classmates at school.
sure a lot of study still has to be done regarding what impact
that relationship has on us.
just to put things in context, I’d like to use the Torah as
a so-to-speak platform and talk about some of the incidents
in the Torah where you find different sibling relationships
and what kind of impact they had, both in their lives, but
more importantly, historically.
the classic sibling rivalry is the first of them all: Cain
and Abel in the Garden of Eden. Abel made an offering to G-d
and Cain was jealous that G-d liked Abel’s offering better than his own, and ended up
killing his own brother, which at the time was like killing
a quarter of the world because the population was so small.
of all, this set in motion the ability for a person to kill
his own sibling. In the classical statement in the Bible (the
Torah), G-d comes to Cain and says, “Where’s your brother
Abel?” and Cain answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he immediately
sets the tone of the responsibility we carry for our siblings.
easy to dismiss the importance of our sibling relationships
and say, “Hey, parents are responsible for their children,
but are a brother and sister responsible for each other? How
much do we have to help pick up the pieces?”
often can see the power of siblings in extreme situations.
You find this especially in our day and age—our dysfunctional
day and age as they call it—in abusive homes for example (and
I use this as an example because sometimes in order to appreciate
the sunlight you need to have an eclipse of the sun).
heard amazing stories of how brothers and sisters really became
each other’s allies in the battle zone which was home, when
parents were either fighting with each other or with their
children. The children themselves turned into great allies
for one another, where older brothers or younger siblings
ended up being the source of solace and comfort for the other
the other hand, you also see this dynamic when children are
used, G-d forbid, in such a tragic way by parents to help
isolate and criticize and stigmatize one of the siblings.
hear stories where one of the parents literally used one child
against the other, or where one child wants to buy the favor
of the parent. So you see that these things have a strong
impact, and as we grow older, we can laugh at it, but often
it’s quite sad and quite tragic.
we have the Cain and Abel story. But is there another story
that counters that? Let’s start with the negative ones. We
also have, of course, Joseph and his brothers (each brother
later becomes the father of the tribes). Again, it’s a question
of jealousy, which leads them to want to kill Joseph, and
they end up selling him into slavery.
to be fair, we also have to look at the other side of sibling
relationships in the Torah. You find the story of the two
sisters, Leah and Rachel, in the book of Genesis, and you
see the noble behavior of Rachel not wanting to insult and
embarrass her older sister. The price that Rachel paid for
allowing her sister to marry Jacob, by giving her the signs
so that she would not be humiliated, as the Bible explains,
was quite an admirable act.
was not only rewarded because of that, but she ends up being
the quintessential mother of the people. The expression attributed
to Rachel is “Rochel
m’vakeh al baneha,” meaning “Rachel cries for her children.”
In many ways, especially Kabbalistically and mystically, Rachel
is the epitome of what it means to be a true mother because
of her selflessness in how she treated her sister before she
even became a mother.
of course, there’s the story of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim
trying to make a type of compendium here, a history of brothers
and sisters in the Bible, because I think this is a good backdrop
with which to compare your own brothers and sisters: “Are
my own brothers and sisters like Cain or are they like Rachel
and Leah?” I hope none of you have a brother like Cain because
if you did, you probably wouldn’t be around. But I’m speaking
figuratively of that type of behavior.)
the end of the book of Genesis, before Jacob passes away,
Joseph brings his sons Ephraim and Menashe to receive a blessing from their grandfather.
Although Menashe is the older of the two, Jacob blesses Ephraim
with what’s called the superior blessings.
the story continues that Joseph thinks that maybe his father
was mistaken so he tries to put his father’s right hand on
Menashe’s head… Anyway, the result is that it does not create
any resentment (on
the part of the boys); on the contrary, Ephraim does
not pull rank and is in no way condescending or arrogant about
it, and Menashe is not resentful. He recognizes that each
one has his particular role.
a result of that, interestingly, when we bless our own children
today before the Sabbath or other times, we say “May the children
be blessed as Ephraim and Menashe were blessed” because of
their unity, that even though they ended up having different
types of blessings, they demonstrated a kind of love and appreciation
for each other that becomes a symbol for what it really means
to inspire and educate your own children.
like to share a very moving story from the Midrash that talks
about the love of siblings for each other. This story took
place before the Temple was built in Jerusalem. The Temple
was built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and there were
many reasons why that mountain was chosen; however, there’s
one particular story that stands out.
story is about two brothers: one had a wonderful wife and
a big family, and the other remained single.
brothers were partners in a wheat farm, and of course they’d
split the produce 50-50. Now each of the brothers had compassion
for the other brother because of his particular situation.
The brother who was single said to himself, “My brother, my
partner, has a large family. He’s more in need of this than
I am,” so even though they split the wheat 50-50, he would
take some of his own bushels and move them to the section
that belonged to his brother. And he would do this in the
middle of the night so his brother wouldn’t notice.
brother who was married and had a family said to himself,
“You know, my brother is so lonely and so sad, and since he’s
alone with no one to take care of him when he grows old, I
think he deserves a little more
to compensate for his being alone in this world. So he
would take some bushels and secretly move them to the section
that belonged to his single brother.
this went on for a while, and they both were amazed when every
morning upon their return to the granary they would find their
piles the same as before they gave away part of their share
to the other brother. Each would think, “That’s very strange,
because I was taking some of mine and putting it in the other
pile. It should have been uneven.”
some time passed, and one night at around midnight they both
happened to be climbing up to the mountain to take from their
pile and give it to their brother, and they encountered each
other carrying a few bushels in their arms to move to the
other brother’s location. They realized what each of them
was doing all this time,. Each of them was finding a virtue
why he felt that his brother deserved more.
Midrash concludes that they were so moved by each other’s
gesture, that they hugged each other right there on the spot,
and G-d then proclaimed it another reason why He would build
the Temple there.
first of all, you see what brotherly love can accomplish,
and more importantly, that the message is not just for that
generation, or for them and their relationship. It actually
created the reason for that holy space, that was dedicated
for brotherly love, it was dedicated to that and what kind
of perpetual effect that had for generations to come.
you hear stories like that, and then by contrast, you hear
about painful situations of siblings arguing or not even speaking
to each other, you wonder what the secret is that some siblings
have and others lack.
some of us have positive experiences, and some of us negative,
and I want to address two points: Number one, what does it
take and why do some brothers and sisters have excellent relationships
and others do not; and
what can you do about a situation when the relationships
have become strained or even severed?
begin with the topic of exactly what it takes, what ingredient,
for children or siblings to have a loving relationship. This
I say both to parents as well as to children who are in an
environment and situation where they can still make a choice,
because once we grow into adults and go our own way, the approach
to healing or dealing with difficult situations is different.
ingredient is a basic one, which I just described with the
story of the brothers, and one final one that I should mention
is Moses and Aharon. Moses, Aharon and Miriam were siblings
with Aharon being older than Moses. Nevertheless, he was not
resentful of the fact that Moses was chosen by G-d to be the
one and only Moses. Even though Aharon was the High Priest,
still, there’s only one Moses.
a result of that, Aharon received many different rewards for
his lack of resentment. As High Priest, he was given the tzitz,
a certain garment (like a crown) that the High Priest wore
that represented a very high level of G-dliness.
giving these scenarios as an example, because here, seemingly,
it’s very easy for a brother to be jealous of a sibling, especially
a sibling who’s younger than he or she is, suddenly assuming
a position that’s greater than his.
it takes is humility. I believe that one of the most serious
causes of erosion in our lives today is insecurity, the erosion
of the self-value and self-esteem of a human being. When you
know your value deep in your heart and soul, there’s so much
more that you can tolerate and respect in other people.
is when you don’t have that type of sense of self, of recognition
of your particular role, that you begin to intrude on the
boundaries and the barriers of others. And you find this in
any particular project, even on a business level. The key
to success in multi-level projects that require many different
components and many different departments and talents is when
the people involved are professionals, meaning that they recognize
and are secure with their contribution.
project falls apart when any individual component or any individual
department is unclear about its role, or feels that another
department is trying to infringe upon its role.
find that insecure people tend to breed insecurity and fear.
They tend to try to incite others. You’ll often find in an
office/business environment with people who are really bitter
that bitterness doesn’t like to be lonely. Anyone who is bitter
or insecure will always try to find an ally in his work environment
who will support him, because he’s looking for that type of
ally so he can say, “It’s not me, it’s all of us that feel
that this and this person is no good.”
see how much strife and hatred can be caused originating from
insecurity in one individual.
this is even more magnified in a home environment because,
at least with work, you are there for a limited period of
time and then you have a home to escape to. But if your home
becomes a battle zone where people’s insecurities begin to
play out, it has dramatic impact on the pathology and the
relationship with other people in that particular home.
this of course begins with parents themselves. Parents who
are insecure, parents who, in a sense, almost see their children
as competition to them, tend to project insecurity. What happens
is that siblings begin to assume that same insecurity.
child begins competing with another. Now there is such a thing
as healthy competition, but it can get out of hand, like with
Cain and Abel, when one person does not really feel that he
or she has any value, so the feeling is, “Oh, that one is
taking something away from me.”
that type of humility comes from security, which is what Aharon
had, what Ephraim and Menashe had, what Leah and Rachel had,
and all the great sibling relationships. Each of them understood
his or her particular role, and that comes most often from
parents and from the type of healthy environment they create.
who are insecure and it’s obviously very difficult to speak
to such people because they won’t acknowledge it and they
probably won’t be listening to this show, and even if they
are they’ll feel like we’re not talking about them, have to
realize that even if you have your issues, it’s critical that
your children not be used by you and it’s critical that you
don’t allow that to play itself out in the home environment.
we go to David on the line.
Caller: I wanted to relate a personal experience I had and it involves
your program. I was listening to your show around Yom Kippur,
and you were talking about what it takes to bring about reconciliation
and forgiveness. You were talking about how if the person
wants to reconcile with someone else, they must make three
attempts. The point that I went away with was that you emphasized
that you must make more than one attempt; it’s not enough
to make just one try and then if the other person spurns you
to just give up and say, “Well, I tried and now it’s up to
happened was, after I heard your show I adopted that point
of view with my own brother—we weren’t speaking at the time—and
I said I’m going to make a few repeated attempts, I’m not
just going to try once and then if he spurns me I’m going
to give up. So I made a number of attempts over a period of
months. It was very difficult at first because he did ignore
me, and it hurt me a great deal, but somehow, I think it was
from listening to your program, I felt like I needed to keep
trying, and I did. I have to tell you that in February, many
months later, there’s been progress. He has come around and
I feel wonderful. He and I are on much better terms than I
ever dreamed we could be.
don’t know if this will work for everybody, but I just wanted
to say that it worked for me: not giving up after one attempt,
which I think many people do, which I myself did for a long
time. You have to keep trying.
Jacobson: David, that’s a great demonstration of humility and fortitude
on your part to swallow your pride and be able to do that.
By the way, is your brother older or younger than you?
Caller: He’s younger.
Jacobson: Can you describe how you became on non-speaking terms? Does
it go back to your young childhood?
Caller: Oh no. It started I think when we were in our twenties or
so, when we were grown. But at the time, when things flared
up, he alluded to the fact that he had always felt this way
but now he was just showing it. So I guess in his mind it
did go back longer, although it didn’t erupt until we were
Jacobson: So now it’s on good terms, or it still needs work?
Caller: I would say it still needs work, it’s a work in progress,
but it’s much better. We speak to each other now—we didn’t
before—we’re gentle with each other, we do things for each
other. We’re still not the best of friends in terms of perfect
friends, but it’s light years ahead of where we were in September
when I was listening to your program that night.
Jacobson: David, that’s very gratifying to hear and I feel humbled
to have been part of bringing you and your brother together.
It’s just a testimony to the strength that you’ve had and
I wish you only blessings, you and your brother, and may your
relationship only grow.
Caller: Thank you very much, Rabbi.
Jacobson: Now, if we had calls like that all the time we’d be in great
shape. Relationships with siblings can be so difficult. I
remember someone coming to me and telling me how difficult
her relationship is with her own sister, which goes back to
their teenage years. Of course it goes back to the mother’s
relationship with both of them, to the point that they both
simply gave up and ceased speaking to each other. The younger
one is speaking to the older one, but she feels that her older
sister simply is unable to hear and listen, and just being
engaged in that relationship is just causing her so much grief
that she doesn’t want to invest in it any longer.
was painful to hear. Of course, you do everything possible
to encourage someone to continue to attempt, as David just
did, to reconcile with a sibling, however, if it’s going to
cause you more pain, or more damage, or more grief, and it
doesn’t allow you to function, I would definitely say that
you have to take care of your own life first.
if we all knew and appreciated the beauty of what our sibling
could give us, that would help motivate us. Because otherwise some of us will just say, “Hey, what’s
the point? If I’m being so hurt and so pained, what’s the
point of me continuing to make attempts ... is it that
important for me to have a relationship with a sibling?”
it’s interesting, I was doing some research into the impact
that brothers and sisters have on one another. In the Kabbalah,
there are verses where sometimes a human being is compared
to a brother or a sister to G-d, and sometimes compared to
a child. When it discusses the brother/sister relationship
as opposed to the relationship of spouses, a sibling relationship
(whether it’s brother/sister, or sister/sister or brother/brother,
and I’m not even getting into the distinctions of whether
it’s the first-child syndrome, second-child syndrome, different
personality types that are often attributed and what sequence
you came which has significance) but overall, the Torah puts
it that sibling relationships are like water, meaning it’s
like a flowing love (in a healthy environment, of course)
that doesn’t have that up and down and the tension that is
usually exhibited in a relationship between two strangers;
for example, two people who decide to marry each other.
when brothers and sisters are very tied together (the word
“achos” in Hebrew
(sister) is from achva:
which means a tied knot) the relationship is so consistent
that there are no ups and downs; it’s something that you can
rely on. Healthy siblings are like an invisible type of subconscious
knowledge that you just know that you have a foundation out
have Mildred on the air.
Caller: I’m happy to be speaking to you Rabbi. I want to tell you
about our happy home, I’m sorry I can’t tell you about a sad
Jacobson: Don’t be sorry, Mildred, please! It’s very good therapy
to hear about a happy situation.
Caller: If we were arguing or doing something that my Mama objected
to, she would watch to see what was going on, and then she
would say, “Okay, it’s finished now. It’s finished. You don’t
come to the table and you don’t go to bed until you are happy
with each other.”
had a sister who was a little younger than me and I had a
brother who was a few years younger than me, and I’m telling
you, we’re grown up now, and unfortunately my sister died
last year, but I have such loving feelings for my brother.
I’m sorry that my sister’s gone, but I have to tell you that
I think very much my mother influenced us because she would
not let us have anger or break each other’s toys, or things
like that. That was not permitted in our house and we never
felt that it was necessary because we loved our mother so
much that we felt that we wanted to do whatever she said.
Jacobson: Mildred, that’s extremely warming and you honor the memory
of your sister by sharing your experience.
Caller: Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to do that.
I so appreciate that I had a mother who would insist on these
things, rather than have her mind elsewhere or in a book.
She would see to it that we were the ones who loved each other
and continued to love each other.
Jacobson: Mildred, do you have your own children?
Caller: I only wish. I’ve never been married. But I do take care of
other people’s children and I teach them the same way that
my mother taught me.
Jacobson: Mildred, I thank you for the call and may your words and
your experiences warm other listeners and I hope others can
have blessings with their own siblings as you have.
I would like to encourage parents about not projecting insecurity,
particularly if you see your own children struggling with
each other. Some children need more reinforcement because
they’re more insecure than another child for whatever reason—they
don’t excel that well in school, they’re not as popular—and
it’s critical that a parent compensates for that and makes
sure that that child who’s somewhat insecure builds and recognizes
a deep security, even if he has siblings who dominate or overshadow
him, or just that their personalities are more gregarious,
because that insecurity becomes a poison that later affects
not just that child but generations to come.
have Louie on the air.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. I appreciate you being on the radio tonight.
I have a problem since I was a little kid. I came from an
abusive family and my sister kind of took care of me when
we were growing up. My father passed away and over a period
of time my sister and I have not spoken and I just don’t know
how to go about being able to talk to her. She was a big influence
as far as me growing up, but then we kind of fell apart when
I got married. She still felt that she was my mother and it
caused a lot of problems between my wife and me. I have not
spoken to my sister in over two years and I just don’t know
how I can go about talking to her, or I don’t even know if
I want to. There’s a lot of anger and I think a lot of that
anger is from when I was a little kid, from growing up in
that type of environment, and I just have a hard time knowing
what to say to my sister.
Jacobson: Did you say she’s older or you’re older?
Caller: She is older. She’s ten years older than I am.
Jacobson: Have you ever tried suggesting to her to perhaps go speak
to a third party?
Caller: Well, she’s very thick-headed like I am, and we just can never
see eye to eye on anything. It’s a hole that’s been left in
my heart and I just don’t know what to do about it.
Jacobson: Are you the only two or do you have more siblings?
Caller: No, I have two other siblings, but again, we are not a very
close family. My father passed away and my mother is still
living, and I guess the way we were brought up, and our feelings
towards each other were just not close. The way we deal with
things is not to talk to each other.
Jacobson: So your sister is the oldest?
Caller: Yes, my sister is the oldest. I’m the youngest.
Jacobson: Well, the fact that you’re making this call is a sign of
hope, because it means you are interested in trying to do
something. Look, you can’t force other people to do anything.
However, I don’t know the entire dynamic… growing up in an
abusive or dysfunctional home definitely is a big contributing
factor to your own separation from one another, yet I would
try to encourage you in any way possible to ally yourself
with any of the siblings that you’re a little closer to…or
let’s put it this way, with whom the animosity is not that
intense, and maybe two of you (two is stronger than one) can
then suggest, “Listen, we’d like to invite everyone together
to sit down. Maybe we can just yell it out.” If you’re all
thick-headed, thick-headed people can communicate as well,
sometimes, and it may be worth the effort. You really have
nothing to lose.
on the next holiday or next opportunity, someone’s birthday,
you can just call one of your siblings, someone who you’re
maybe not close to but better off than the others and suggest
calling the other two to get together in a neutral environment.
Just remember, deep down, beneath the abuse, and beneath the
unhealthy pathology, lie rivers, flowing rivers that connect
you all, the same blood. It’s sad to know that you have that
in your life but you can’t access it.
has his or her own childishness, and sometimes these animosities
grow and pride doesn’t allow anyone to acknowledge it. But
if you are able to make a call like this you can say, “Look,
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m thick headed, and
I want to change this. We’re here for each other and ultimately
we may not have a great relationship, but at least we can
open up the channels of communication.”
said I would offer, if any of your siblings would like to
sit down and speak with me and yourself, that I’d be happy
to do that. You have nothing to lose and pride should not
be a factor here; these are your brothers and sisters, people
whom at one time you had an excellent relationship with.
you were two years old, I doubt that your sister had any animosity
toward you at that point. So there are those memories. And
to try to recreate or remember and recollect and reminisce
what was once can only provide healthy nourishment.
let me know what happens. Thank you for the call.
like to take a little break here to remind people about my
Wednesday night class, at 8pm every Wednesday, which takes
place at 346 W. 89th St., corner of Riverside drive.
All are welcome, men and women, of all backgrounds, no matter
what level of education you consider yourself to be. It’s
a very eclectic group, a very non-judgmental environment,
and it’s part of many of the programs and classes that we
offer at the Meaningful Life Center which I have the privilege
have Evon on the line.
Caller: Hi Rabbi. I just want you to know that I was turning to the
AM station to find out the weather and I found you. So I’ve
been led by the spirit to call you and what I’m calling about
is, I’m the eldest of three children. I have a sister who’s
7-1/2 years younger than I am and to make this short, she
ran into some trouble in her life and I took her last two
children to raise them for her until she was able to get them
that time we had a reconciliation where she informed me that
she had hated me all of her life. I never knew why, I was
like the mother figure. My mother, as you stated, had a lot
of insecurities; however, since that time, my sister has gotten
her two children back, whom I’m very close with, we had been
very close. But now at this juncture, it started back in about
May, she has been seeing a guy (the kids’ father died since
they were in foster care with me).
a matter of a couple of months, she’s introduced them to this
guy and now she’s got them calling him Daddy. Besides that,
she relies on what he says in terms of what she does with
the kids. The kids have not been around their family other
than their other brothers and sisters, but their grandmother
who just had a serious operation and home from the hospital.
They have not seen me since the summer or my daughter, who
helped raise them while my sister could not. And it’s just
tearing the family apart. With me, as the gentleman before
had said about trying more than once, I went to my sister,
even in church, and I said, “Can I speak to you?” And her
attitude is always, “I don’t have time. My agenda doesn’t
so, at this point in time, I don’t know what to do. I try
not to be too upset about it, because I notice it was starting
to affect me emotionally and physically. I don’t know what
Jacobson: The children are under her care right now?
Caller: The children are under her care, and one of the things that
I need to stipulate, and my sister and I had spoken about
it, I said, “While you’re going to see a psychiatrist, you
need to bring up this factor of why is it so necessary for
you to have a male in your life.” It’s not as if she was not
raised without a father. Her father was married to her mother.
My father was a very good father. We went to parochial school.
We had the best things in life. I don’t know. My sister has
four other older children and all of them are having emotional
problems because my sister has always had to have some male
in her life and they always come before her children. In this
instance, now, this person, who basically dropped in from
nowhere, she’s got these kids taking him as their father and
based on what he says, they can come and see the family or
not, or be with us. That’s what she does.
Jacobson: Does she appreciate at all that you helped her with taking
care of her children while she was going through her crisis?
Caller: You know, before the kids came home, Rabbi, which was in August
of 1998, she had been. My sister has helped me out in some
crunches because during the time that I had my sister’s kids,
they got taken away from me illegally which they should not
have. In fighting to get them back, I lost my apartment on
Riverside that I’d had for 23-1/2 years. I’m now living in an SRO and my sister had helped me a couple
of times since I’ve been in this position here. Also because
I’m not working.
it’s almost like a Svengali thing with her. And not just with
this guy here. But it’s a pattern.
Jacobson: So let me say this. I share your exasperation. However,
as a sister, you can only do that much. It’s very gracious
of you that you took care of her children while she was going
through her crisis, however, the problem is, you and I can
discuss solutions, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to your
sister because she is not on the air right now and is not
necessarily going to listen to what I’m going to tell you.
you can’t get through to your sister, it’s critical that you
find someone who perhaps can. If children are being hurt….
My concern is that she may react to you negatively and she
may not act that same way to a neutral party because she may
see you as the older sister who’s always been controlling
her. So even if you have her good interests in mind and you
really care for her, in a way you can be her worst enemy because
she’s just seeing you as a controlling sister and she doesn’t
even care what you say.
know this from my own experience that sometimes when I want
to communicate things with my brothers and sisters I often
have to find someone else to do it because sometimes, coming
from me, it’s not neutral. People see their siblings differently.
I would recommend finding someone who can speak to your sister
and get through to her. Now, ultimately, it’s her life and
it’s her problem, and if you see real negligence around her
children there must be someone who perhaps can intervene.
Caller: Well, what I did, Rabbi, just as the courts were getting ready
to let go of her and the children totally in September, I
went down to the agency that had the kids under their authority
and I explained the situation to the supervisor down there
whom my sister and I had had dealings with and I knew very
well and she was very objective about the situation here.
However, the absolute release got held up for a minute in
court again. I didn’t want the kids taken away from her again,
but I felt that continued supervision of her and the kids,
and as far as bringing in a third person, I thought of that about speaking to my pastor
and having my sister come there. But the thing is, she manipulates
when she talks to others.
Jacobson: I understand. But ultimately, you can only do what you do.
Do you have your own children, Evon?
Caller: I have a daughter who’s 37. My daughter helped me with these
kids. And my sister said to her the other day when my daughter
asked her if the kids could visit, she said, “I don’t know.”
And then she told her no. And my daughter said, “Well how
can they go over to this other person’s house, this fellow,
and spend the night and he’s only got a studio, and my sister
has a girl child… And she said to my daughter, “Well, you’re
not important, he is.”
Jacobson: Evon, I appreciate your call and it’s an interesting manifestation
of a sibling issue where an older sister is dealing with her
younger sister’s assumed negligence of some of the children.
It’s important that she should not see you as a controlling
force because then it could just cause more damage. The important
thing is to find that right third party. But your concern
is very admirable and I think the fact that you helped your
sister is important, and I hope your sister appreciates that.
If there’s some way I can be of help to speak to your sister,
I’d be happy to try to help. I thank you for the call.
know, often when we need help, we often go far to find it.
I know sometimes when I need to get something done in my office,
I often consult with someone and then I realize that I have
someone in the office who’s professional and so close by and
I just don’t access them.
own family, your own siblings, are often the best resource
in your life. But they’re so close and you get so accustomed
to them, it’s like anything—when you get close you don’t see
the forest, you only see the trees. It’s critical in a life
like ours, in this cruel world we live in, you should do whatever's
possible to access that resource which is called your sibling:
your brother, your sister, which is your blood.
show, Toward a Meaningful Life, is one of many
programs where we try to present a meaningful approach to
life, an approach that can help us all live more fulfilling
lives. That’s why I like to address topics that are so relevant
to us, that touch home, topics that others perhaps don’t talk
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You can call us at 1-800-363-2646, 1-800-3MEANING and I look
forward to speaking to you on the air or at my Wednesday Night
Class. Have a great evening.