Oy Vey! Have I Got A Problem

Oy Vey! Have I Got A Problem

The eldest of three siblings, a reader asks for guidance as the "unilaterally appointed commander-in-chief" of the family crew.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Dear Rachel,

As the eldest of three siblings, my parents unilaterally appointed me commander-in-chief of our crew. I have maintained this position well into adulthood, though it’s not always a comfortable cloak to wear. Whenever there is a decision to make about anything regarding family, yours truly has the deciding vote.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite as miserable if my dear siblings, Dayna and Jeffrey, got along. But they seem to have been born fighting and have sustained their rivalry ever since.

The clincher came recently when my mother asked me to come over. My antennae rose immediately, and I sniffed an imminent storm rolling my way.

“I have something significant to discuss,” she informed me somberly.

My heart clambered to the floor, and I shifted from one foot to the other.

“When I die,” Mom intoned, “you will be the executor of our estate. Daddy and I agreed on that.” Mom paused and sniffed before continuing. “I want Dayna and Jeff to accept my wishes with caring and respect.”

I nodded, ready to jump in and reassure Mom that she has plenty of time left. After all, she’s hale and hearty, despite being a nonagenarian! Sensing my unspoken thoughts, she shook her head and quickly put her hand up, signaling me to stop.

“There’s more,” she continued, and I gulped. “I want their foolish squabbling to stop. There is no reason for siblings not to get along! I’m trusting you, Ruth, to come up with a plan that will help the two of them grow close.”

WAIT! I wanted to scream, rant, and rave. Who’s the parent here? Besides, who said I can create a miracle? Please don’t put this burden on me!

To our shock and bewilderment, Mom passed only three months later. And one lonely night not long after, I stared through the window at the glistening moon and stars and started, suddenly remembering Mom’s fervent wish.

Heaving a huge sigh, I reminded myself that there is no time like the present. But, I wondered, my mind spinning in wild circles: HOW do I accomplish this herculean feat?


An Unwilling Commander-In-Chief (CIC)

Dear CIC,

You must be a very capable, warm and giving person to be entrusted by your parents with such a weighty responsibility. Often, we don’t look for extra jobs. They entail hard work and pushing ourselves to our limits, and who wants heavy-duty exertion? Yet, when challenges land on our shoulders, responsible people soldier up and set out to accomplish the feat, hurdles notwithstanding. And once we’ve scaled the peak, we are filled with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So, CIC, how can you help your querulous siblings get along? May I suggest the following? Sit down with Dayna and Jeffrey individually and explain how important it was to your parents that they learn to put aside their differences and act like family. Ask them if there is anything you can do to facilitate the process. Surely, they will care to provide satisfaction to their beloved parents on high, even if the task seems insurmountable.

Perhaps you can provide the meeting grounds for weekly dinners or get-togethers. Spending pleasant time together can be a great way to bond and engender closeness.

If that attempt is ineffective and they continue to rip each other to shreds, can you arrange for a meeting including the three of you and your rabbi? Often a wise and objective third party can assist in ways that someone subjective cannot.

In our Torah, the value of peace is paramount, and honoring your parents ranks high up there, as well. Ruth, you’re a devoted daughter, sister, and praiseworthy Jew. May Hashem help you to successfully fulfill your dear parents’ heartfelt request.

Wishing you strength and courage.

With admiration,


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