Early this morning, I was in the basement exercising when I heard a ruckus upstairs and what sounded like my wife breaking up a fight between my two pre-school age children. Like most siblings, my kids generally get along very well, but once in a while one of them pushes things a little too far and they start fighting.
After some alone time, both kids were able to resume the morning rituals and go to school without incident. I was still home when my wife got back from dropping the kids off and she had a look on her face that told me that I might be in trouble. After exchanging a few brief pleasantries, my wife asked me “Did you tell our son it was OK to hit someone?”
Since kids don’t know how to express themselves verbally, many go through stages where the hit or kick out of frustration. Like most parents, we teach our children that should not resort to violence and suggest alternative means for them to let out their frustrations like hitting a pillow or a popular phrase around my house “Use your words.”
That all sounds well and good, but what do you tell your kids to do if someone is hitting them? The first step would be to tell the other person to stop. A second step may be to run away or get a grown up. What do you do if all of these things fail? We don’t believe in becoming a punching bag. Jewish law is clear that if you have to defend yourself, you may do so if you’re being physically threatened or abused.
That being said, even the most non violent person is commanded to physically defend themselves and use whatever force is necessary to save them from harm. It may seem like a contradiction that a non violent person can and should use violence to defend themselves against a violent person. However, we learn how one can go against their nature, even to this extreme, at appropriate times from our forefather Jacob in this week’s parsha.
Jacob was the epitome of truth and yet when he encountered his wicked brother Eisav, in last week’s parsha, and his wicked uncle Laven, in this week’s parsha, he was allowed to lie and use deceitful measures in order to defend himself against them. One might think of Jacob’s deceit as the opposite of truth, but it was that very ability to function in this world that exemplifies why Jacob represents uncompromising truth. We can find the proof in next weeks parsha when G-d gives Jacob the name Yisroael (
) which means that he can function both the physical and spiritual worlds. Israel
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