This week I caught up with a couple who had gone through
relationship enrichment coaching with me. Thank G-d they’ve turned a
corner now, but when they came to me they were on the verge of
separating due to the intensity of their fighting.
Although they wanted better communication and a more gentle form
of conflict, they constantly found themselves speaking with contempt
and aggression. They hurled insults at each other and their language
was … not exactly suitable for a Rabbi’s ears.
They were frustrated because they really wanted to feel close and
connected, and to speak to each other respectfully and lovingly. Yet it
always seemed so hard to not respond aggressively and equally as hard
to just speak calmly.
Really, this paradigm is something everyone can experience because all
growth has two components to it:

  1. Do more of the positive
  2. Do less of the negative
    In their specific case this meant speaking more respectively and less
    aggressively. But they were stuck in the middle, not really moving or
    improving, because they couldn’t work out where to start. They knew
    what to do but they couldn’t work out which one to do first: to speak
    more nicely and gently, or to speak less aggressively and critically.
    Here’s the thing, life often presents us with a problem that has two
    seemingly mutually exclusive paths that can solve it, and it’s so easy to
    get paralysed trying to work out which one to do or which one to start
    So here’s a question which I think really helps: What’s the worst position
    to be in when you’re on a seesaw?


I think it’s right smack bang in the middle, balancing between the two
ends, motionless and going neither up or down.
And here’s the secret, those two opposite paths are really the two ends
of the see-saw, when one end goes up – the other will go down, and of
course, vice versa.
In this week’s parsha we see this idea when the Torah lists the names of
the Patriarchs in the wrong order, going in the exact opposite
chronological order: starting with Yaakov and then to Yitzchak and
The chassidic masters link this to an ancient and enigmatic argument
as to which was created first: the heavens or the earth.
The great Sage Shammai said it was the Heavens, while his peer the
famous Hillel said it was the earth. Each had their reasons and their
proofs but they stood deadlocked until the great Rabbi Shimon bar
Yochai, the author of the Zohar said: I don’t understand your argument –
Heaven and earth were created simultaneously, like a pot and its lid. In
other words, they come together and they move together.
So too when dealing with relationship issues: Forget the order, the
procedure and the chronology. Every situation is unique: different
times, different people and different contexts.
Just go, just move, just start changing. Because when a journey finishes
at the same place, it does not matter where you start.