> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Avoiding a Fight

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

In this week's Torah portion, we see what great lengths Jacob went to in order to avoid fighting with his brother, Esau. Jacob wasn't afraid, and he would have fought if he didn't have a choice, but he knew -- and his actions teach us -- that the Torah way is to avoid violence whenever we can.


In our story, a kid fights to avoid violence.


Oh, no, thought Mike to himself as he and his brother, Stevie, were walking to the neighborhood park. There's that dumb Jon-Jon or Jo-Jo, or whatever they call him. Everyone tells me he's big trouble. I hope he doesn't start up with me.

Almost as soon as the thought crossed his mind, Jimbo Jackson came driving straight at him on his bike at full speed. The boys tumbled out of the way just in time to avoid getting run over.

"Ha ha ha!" Jimbo laughed.

Mike groaned again. He asked himself for the hundredth time why they had to move to this neighborhood. Whatever the old neighborhood had been, at least everyone knew not to start up with a karate expert like himself.

     "Mike, why didn't you pop him one? Why did you let him get away with it?" asked Stevie, as the two boys wiped the dust off their pants. "I mean it. Why don't you go over now and give it to him, Mike?" his brother pressed on. "Chop-chop and it's all over. He'll never know what hit him!"

Mike frowned. "I know he'd never know, Stevie, but I would know. Just because I'm a black belt in karate doesn't mean I should hurt people. There are better ways to solve problems."

The boys walked on. When they got to the entrance of the park, Jimbo was blocking the gate.

"Gonna cost you a buck -- entrance fee to come into my park." he sneered. "Pay up or get lost."

Stevie saw Mike moving his arm and smiled, certain his brother was finally going to give that jerk what he deserved, big time. But his eyes widened in shock as he saw Mike dip his hand in his pocket, fish out a dollar bill and silently hand it to Jimbo instead. They walked in past the laughing bully.

"Mike, I just can't believe you. Why did you give that kid money when you could have sent him through the wall?"

"It was worth it to me to avoid a fight," Mike shrugged.

"But you're a black belt! You don't have to avoid a fight. Come on, that Jimbo is bad news. One round with you and he'll leave us alone forever."

     "Stevie, let me ask you a question. Do you think it's normal for a kid to go around driving his bike into other people, to hurt them and knock them down? Do you think that's something they teach kids to do in school?"

"Of course not, Mike. You know that as well as me."

"So if Jo-Jay…"


"So if Jimbo is doing something like that, and he didn't learn it in school, how do you think he learned to do it? If someone's hurting you, chances are it means that someone or something is hurting them. If I beat him up, I'm just going to add to his problems and the problems of everyone he meets and that's not right."

"So you’re just going to let him hurt and blackmail us forever?" Stevie asked.

"I'm not sure yet what to do. But I'm not going to get violent, unless there's absolutely no choice. You got that?"

"Guess so. But 'no choice' time might be sooner than you think, because he's coming back this way on his bike, fast. And he's holding a baseball bat! Something tells me he's not coming to invite us to join him for a friendly pickup game of softball."

Mike glanced at the charging bully out of the corner of his eye and tensed his muscles. Maybe this time he really would have to fight the guy. Suddenly he got an idea. He tugged his younger brother by the shirtsleeve, and said, "Quick. Stevie. Remember that move I taught you? How to fall just before I hit you so that you don't get hurt? Let's do it right now!"

Mike wound up and pulled off one of his most complicated flying karate moves, with Stevie as his willing victim. Just as he was about to turn Stevie into chop suey, the kid dropped flat onto the floor and played dead. Jimbo stopped short and watched the whole thing with his mouth hanging wide open in shock.

"Wow! Hey, how'd you do that?" Jimbo exclaimed, dumbfounded. "What'd you do to the kid? Is he all right? Where'd you learn that?"

Stevie popped up right then and stood next to his big brother.

     "It's karate. I've been learning it for the last five years – I've got a black belt, actually," Mike said quietly.

Suddenly Jimbo looked really scared. "L-l-l-look, I'll give you back your money, just don't hit me, okay?"

"Don't worry, Jimbo," Mike said. "Just because I'm tougher than somebody else, doesn't give me the right to hurt them. And it doesn't give you the right to either. How about we make a deal. I'll leave you alone and you'll start laying off the other kids, okay? Maybe I'll even teach you some of these cool moves -- once we both know you're only going to use them the right way -- for exercise and not to hurt people."

"Man, you've got a deal," he said. Still shaking his head in admiration of both Mike's skills and ability to keep his cool, Jimbo turned and rode off, this time without his usual swagger.

"Mike?" said Stevie.


"I see what you mean, I think. It takes more strength not to fight than it does to fight. Right?"

"That's right."

     "Those really were the coolest moves I've ever seen. The real moves, though. Not the ones we did for Jimbo. The ones you did in inside."

"Thanks. You're pretty cool yourself…"


"For a little brother, that is."


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Stevie feel his big brother should have reacted to Jimbo?
A. He wanted him to use his karate to beat him up.

Q.How did Mike feel about it?
A. He felt that violence wasn’t the way to solve the problem.

Ages 6-9

Q.. What life lesson do you think the guys learned that day?
A.Mike's clear head and quick thinking turned what could have been a very violent afternoon into a peaceful one because he understood the value of avoiding violence whenever possible.

Q. Is it ever okay to use violence?
A. When a person feels genuinely threatened and with no other option or way to escape, he may have to resort to violence to defend himself, but it is almost always preferable and possible to find another way and we should try our best to do so.

Q. What are three things you're really grateful for? Who gave them to you?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Does might make right? If not, what does make right?'
A. What's right or just is not determined by strength or numbers. G-d has implanted a sense of truth and fairness in each of our hearts and wants us to live justly. Through the Torah, He has given us guidelines of how to access and implement this inner wisdom to improve our lives and the world.

Q. Our sages teach that a secret to turn enemies into friends is to love them. What do you think might lie behind this secret?
A. The human heart is like a mirror that reflects whatever emotions are being projected at it. When we make a sincere concerted effort to love and have positive feelings toward someone—it is nearly impossible not to influence them to feel more positively toward us. People who have developed this technique to a high degree have used it to literally save their lives.


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