When In Doubt, Wait It Out

May 9, 2009

4 min read


A peaceful marriage doesn't mean agreeing all the time. Sometimes the best resolution to a conflict is to let it lie.

She rolls the toothpaste, he
squeezes. He sticks the shoes under the bed, she places them in the closet. For
these types of issues, you don't need God, or even Dr. Laura to intervene.
Usually, someone's big enough to give in. Or at least flip a coin. Arm-wrestle.
Kick box if you must.

But what do you do when it's something important -
something really important - and neither of you is willing to back down?

The truth is, those righteous
men and women in the Bible also had their share of marital challenges. Take the
story of Isaac and Rebecca. They were at odds over their sons for more than 50
years! A 50-year "fight" and they lived happily ever after. How did
they do it?

They did it by doing nothing!

They didn't fight and they
didn't give in. Of course they knew they had differences. How can two people
share the same roof and not have differences? But they also knew that not
every grievance has to be aired right away and not every conflict needs to be
resolved immediately. So why turn it into a brawl?

And they didn't hold it against
each other. They understood that marriage is for keeps.


The story in Genesis goes like
this: Jacob was as good as gold. His twin brother Esav was rotten to the core -
but he acted like an Eagle Scout in front of his father.

For his whole life, Father Isaac
was convinced that Esav deserved the blessings as the future leader of the
Jewish people.

Sometimes love means never having to say ... anything!

Mother Rebecca knew better. She
saw Esav for what he truly was - a philandering bum and a ruthless killer. Not
one ounce of holiness in him. How could she allow him to take the helm?

So what should she do? Denounce
her own son in front of his father? Argue? Scream? Fight?

No. Rebecca waited. When the
time came for Isaac to bless his sons, Rebecca orchestrated events so that
Isaac would be able see Esav and Jacob, one after the other, in exactly the
same situation, and judge their true characters for himself.

She did it all in a way that
Isaac could accept, in a way that gave respect to his opinions - but still
allowed him to change his mind without "losing face."

That's Jewish wisdom in action.


So what happened? When Jacob
walked in the room to get the blessings, Father Isaac said it smelled like the
Garden of Eden.

But the stench around Esav was
something very different indeed. Here was Esav as he had always been, brutal,
callous, ordering his father around, screaming at the top of his lungs. This
was no leader of the Jewish people. This was the father of Rome and all of its
cruel decadence.

After seeing his two sons in
this light, it didn't take long for Isaac to get the point.

And so, after all those years,
Rebecca finally "won." But really they both won. She was able to show
her husband, without once opening her mouth in anger, that she had been right
all along. She kept peace in the family while maintaining her principles, and
eventually won Isaac over to her side.

That is the lesson for us.
Sometimes love means never having to say...anything! Sometimes we simply have to
hold our tongues and bide our time, maybe using a little sleight of hand here
and there, until we're able to gently prove our point.

So the rule is: When in doubt,
wait it out!

It may not be as immediately conclusive as a knock-down,
drag-out fight. But it might just be one secret to maintaining a long and happy

Based on a class by Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz.

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