> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Sincere Praise

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

We all own a tool that costs us nothing to use, yet can improve our relationships with others, get people to like us, and make even people who might otherwise be our enemies want to be our friends. That tool is sincere praise. In this week's portion, Jacob faces a sticky encounter with his brother Esau. Esau is very angry with Jacob, and has even threatened his life. But Jacob compliments and praises his brother when they meet, and they part with a big hug, and at least for the time being, at peace. By making the effort to sincerely praise and compliment the people in our lives we can make bad relationships good, and good ones better


In our story we get a first hand look at the power of praise.


I'm used to having things my way. Maybe the fact that I'm a head taller, and 50 pounds heavier, than anyone else in my class may have something to do with it. Let's just say that I've gotten into my fair share of fights in my time, and I have never lost a single one.

Well that's not exactly true. I did lose one fight and I'm embarrassed to admit it was to a kid less than half my size ... and he didn't even know karate.

It started out like any other regular day in the school cafeteria. I got there a little late, which was never a problem, since nobody minded if I 'stepped in' to the front of the line whenever I got there. (And even if he did, he couldn't do anything about it.) This time I showed up with my buddy, Sam, who I invited to join me at my 'special' place in line, when I felt a tap on the shoulder.

Of course I just ignored it, but then I felt it again. Was someone really dumb enough to try to start up with me?

Another tap, and I felt my face go red. I clenched my fists as I got ready to turn around and let that wise guy have it. I figured the kid was probably pretty big himself since he thought he stood a chance with me, but I wasn't worried.

I felt another tap and I wheeled around fast to catch the guy off guard ... but I didn't see anybody there! All I saw were some kids a few feet back, who weren't even paying any attention.

Then I felt another tap, but this time on my chest! I looked down. No wonder I hadn't seen anybody, because standing behind me was a kid so short that I hadn't even noticed him standing there!

But a fight was a fight, and I got ready for action. "Yeah, whadaya want?" I asked with a snarl.

The kid didn't even look scared. "I just wanted to tell you," he said, "that I wished I had a friend as good as you."

The kid's words took me by total surprise. "Huh? Good as me? What do you mean?"

"That's right!" said the kid with a smile. "I could see from the way you walked in here and did whatever you could to help your friend get a good place in line that you really care about him. I wish I had a friend like that."

I certainly didn't expect a compliment and I had no idea what to say. Maybe this kid wasn't so bad, after all. "Gee, thanks," I muttered.

But then he went on, "Yup, and I see you're a helpful person who cares. Just the other day I saw you pushing the teacher's car that was stuck in the snow."

I didn't know anybody had noticed. I felt my fists unclench, and I don't know why, but I was really starting to like this kid.

"Yeah, having a friend like you would be worth its weight in gold!" he smiled, and I couldn't help smiling with him.

"That would be one BIG pile of gold!" I added, laughing.

Meanwhile the line had almost reached the serving counter. That's when he beat me ... I took the kid gently by his little arm, and moved him back ahead of both Sam, who couldn't believe his eyes, and me.

"Guess what? From now on, I am your friend. If you ever need help, just ask me."

So, like I said, that was the first time I ever lost a fight. And you know what, don't tell anybody, but I think in a lot of ways that was the first fight I ever really won.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the big boy in the story feel when he first got tapped on the back?
A. He felt ready to fight, and that he wasn't going to give up his place no matter what.

Q. How did he feel after the little boy complimented him?
A. He felt much less angry, and even wanted to be the boy's friend and let him back in line.

Q. Can you think of a few sincere compliments you could give to someone right now?

Ages 6-9

Q. What made the boy change his attitude so much that he went from being ready to fight to keep his place, to letting the smaller kid back in front of him?
A. It was due to the smaller kid's compliments. They made the big kid feel good both about himself, and about the kid who praised him. When we tell other people good things about themselves, we bring them closer to us.

Q. Would this have worked just as well with any compliment that the smaller kid had thought up?
A. No, the compliment was effective because it was true and sincere. People like to hear themselves praised, but only when the praise is true. Before we praise others we should first consider what is genuinely praiseworthy about them, and try to mean what we say.

Q. Can you think of a few sincere compliments you could give to someone right now?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is there difference between praise and flattery? If so, what?
A. While on the surface they may seem similar, actually there is a world of difference. Praise comes from the heart, whereas flattery comes from the lips. Praise is sincere, while flattery is phony. Praise leaves a person with a lasting good feeling inside, flattery wears off quickly and leaves a person feeling used.

Q. Is it okay to praise something wrong or unethical that someone does in order to get on his good side?
A. It may be tempting, but it's wrong. A person behaving improperly is hurting himself or others, and this shouldn't be reinforced. However, just about everyone has some genuine good within him, and it is worthwhile to try to discover that good point and praise others about it, as it did in the story, it can often work wonders.

Q. What would be one of the biggest compliments a person could give you?



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