Love, Impartiality, and Rivalry in the Family
The first book of the Torah—Bereishit—presents us with a host of examples of family dynamics and dramas. Special attention is given to the topic of unequal parental (or Divine) love and its results: the choosing of the youngest son, casting out of the first-born (to whom formal law gives preference), and rivalry and enmity among brothers. This subject arises time and again, starting with the first pair of brothers, Cain and Abel, continuing through the entire creation of the Hebrew people, and concluding in Bereishit with Jacob’s family.
Using the classic Jewish texts to lend impetus, the three proposed lessons analyze the dynamics of parental favoritism, partiality toward one child. Such inequality usually is glossed over by society and the parents themselves, leaving them and their children quite alone with this complicated process, which leaves its mark on every member of the family. The Torah’s open acknowledgement of this phenomenon allows us to talk about the dynamics of favoritism in the family through various models presented by the stories. The issues that worry the parents of today are already present in the ancient sources, and they invite us to enter into a dialogue with them. By using various ways of working with the text—beit midrash, Bibliodrama, contemporary literary interpretations—the participants will be able to gain a deep understanding of the primary source and to find in the text their own voice and personal interpretation, as well as its relevance both for individual growth and for self-determination of family relations in the complex reality of the modern world.
by Dana Pulver