As we approach Shavuot, a time when the Jewish people were unified at Har Sinai, we will read the pasuk “Vayichan sham Yisrael neged ha’har–and the Jews encamped opposite the mountain”. Vayichan is the singular form of the word, although the pasuk is talking about the entire Jewish nation. Rashi comments that the Jewish people at Har Sinai were k’ish echad b’lev echad—we were like one person, with one heart. We were united in a singular purpose at Har Sinai. That is the only way we were able to receive the Torah.
When I was first married, I listened to a class on marriage by Sara Chana Radcliffe. She said something that has always stuck with me—when you have a problem with your husband, don’t say, “How are we ever going to work this out?” or “We are never going to work this out!” Always try to be positive and say, “I know we will figure this out…I know we can figure this out together.”
She explained that the positive statement is the true one. We will always have problems, but we also have within ourselves the ability to solve those problems.
It might mean that we have to dig deep into our reserves of courage and patience, and it might mean lots of hard physical or spiritual work, but we can overcome our struggles.
She went even further: G-d gives us problems in order to help us grow and become stronger and greater people. We need to solve these problem as a couple, to help strengthen our marriage and to make us into better people and better spouses. This whole concept is encompassed in just those few changed words—“I know we can work this out (together).”
It is amazing that by switching around just a few words in a sentence, the message can transform into something so much more loving and empowering.
Because I love words, this simple tactic speaks to me.
Jewish tradition teaches us that words are so powerful that they have the ability to create connections between people, reflect emotions, promote good will, make strong statements, and soothe anger. Words can unify us.
The above is just one example of how a sentence can create good feelings instead of bad ones. This inspires to me to always be on the lookout for ways to upgrade my communication skills, use simple phrases that can pack a whole lot of love, encourage cooperation, and keep people feeling good.
So, instead of saying to our kids and spouses, “We never seem to be able to work anything out!”, here are some more phrases whose underlying messages can help us keep our families strong and the fighting at bay:
1. “Our family works together to get things done!”
2. “Let’s not accuse; let’s focus on solutions.”
3. “If we put our heads together, we can figure out how to get all the stuff done for Shabbat in the short time we have/how to arrange the seating at the table so we don’t fight/how to make the chores seem fair.”
4. “Teasing hurts feelings. Let our home be a place where we encourage each other.”
5. “I am going to need your help to figure out this problem with scheduling conflicts/getting dinner to the table on time.”
6. “We all want this to work out.”
7. “What you say is important to me, and other people’s feelings are too. Let’s talk this out a bit and hear from everyone…”
8. “Let’s try to be flexible here.”
9. “Eli is not feeling well tonight, so can someone take over his job for him?” or “Eli is really bogged down with schoolwork, so can someone help him with his job?”
10. “It is not easy with six different people living in one house; it can be hard to get along. I think that most of the time, we are doing a great job of it!”
As we near Shavuot, let’s use this time to think of ways to build achdut in our families. I hope these simple phrases can help.