Vayechi: The blessed disagreement

Don’t try to change anyone –
except yourself!

You find yourself disagreeing with your spouse, clashing with your business partner, arguing with your child.
You know you’re in the right, and you’re desperate to get the other person to see that.
What do you do?
Yaakov Avinu is on his deathbed. Yosef takes his two sons, Ephraim and Menasheh, to get their Grandfather’s blessing. Yaakov will be blessing both boys simultaneously, placing one palm on each head. Jewish tradition considers a person’s right hand to be the stronger one spiritually. As Menasheh is the firstborn, with more significant privileges and responsibilities, Yosef wants him to receive the more prominent blessing. He intentionally places Ephraim on Yaakov’s right-hand side and Menasheh on his left.
But Yaakov sees things differently. Through prophetic vision, he realises that Ephraim is destined to become greater than his older brother. Thus, Yaakov feels that the more prominent blessing would benefit Ephraim rather than Menasheh.
But rather than switching them around, Yaakov does the unexpected: he stretches his right arm over his left arm in an X shape!
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Mendelsohn of Komemius, gives a beautiful explanation for Yaakov’s behaviour:
Yaakov had no wish to change his son’s position. He merely wanted to do what he had to do without fuss. Yaakov’s response to the conflict was to change his way of doing things. To do what he felt was right while respecting Yosef’s position.
It’s a lesson for all of us. Disagreements aren’t about changing other people’s views. On the contrary; they could be springboards for own growth. It could be a matter of understanding the different viewpoint while still disagreeing, strongly even. It could mean overhauling our perspectives completely. Or it could be a case of just choosing our battles wisely. But when interacting with others with opposing views, the goal must be about changing ourselves. For the better.

(As heard from Rabbi Shimon Semp)

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