The message of brotherly love


In both last week’s Torah portion, Shemot, and this week’s Torah portion, Va’era, God instructs Moses to go to Pharaoh and free the Israelite people from Egyptian bondage. Moses is afraid that Pharaoh won’t listen to him, and so God tells Moses’ older brother, Aaron, to go with him. Perhaps God knew that some brotherly support might help Moses on such a monumental mission.

I can’t help but notice the relationship between Moses and Aaron. One brother, the greatest prophet of all time, was unable to do the task alone. But together, they were stronger, more confident and more able to follow God’s commands.

Their relationship reminds me of one of my favorite stories about the power of siblings living in harmony.

Long ago, in the holy city of Jerusalem, there lived two brothers who earned their living as farmers. The older brother was unmarried and lived alone; the younger brother lived with his wife and four children. 

The brothers loved each other dearly and worked together very well. Together they plowed, planted and harvested their crops.  After they cut the wheat, they shared equally the produce of their joint labors.

One night during the harvest, the older brother lay down to sleep, but his thoughts were troubled. “Here I am,” he said to himself, “all alone, with no family and no children. I don’t need to feed or clothe anyone except myself. But my younger brother has the responsibility of a large family. It’s not right to share our harvest equally; after all – he needs much more than I do!”

At midnight he arose and took a pile of sheaves from his crop, carried them to his brother’s field and left them there. Then he returned home and slept in peace. 

That very same night his brother also could not sleep. He was thinking about his older brother. “Here I am,” he thought, “with a large and loving family. When I grow old, my children will take care of me. But what will happen to my brother in his old age? Who will take care of him? His needs are greater than mine. 

It isn’t fair to divide the crops equally!” 

So he arose and took a load of sheaves to his brother’s field, and left them there. Then he returned home and went to sleep in peace. 

When morning came, both brothers were amazed to find their crops exactly as they had been the night before. They wondered how such a thing could happen, but they did not speak to each other about this strange event.

The following night, the same exact thing happened again. When morning came, once again they were amazed to find they had the same number of sheaves as the night before. 

On the third night, each brother once again carried a pile of sheaves to his brother’s land, but it just so happened that they were doing it at the exact same time. It was a clear night lit with a bright full moon; they met at the top of the hill.

Suddenly, magically, silently, each understood what had happened. 

They dropped their sheaves; they embraced, weeping with gratitude, happiness and love.

God saw this act of love between the two brothers and blessed the place where they met that night. And when, in the course of time, King Solomon built the Holy Temple, from which peace and love and brotherhood were to flow to the whole world, he erected it on that very spot.

This is one of my favorite stories for many reasons. I love the idea of brothers and sisters being loving and kind to each other. I love that, embedded in this week’s Torah portion, we have a reminder of how siblings can help one another.

I want to encourage each of us to contact our siblings, if we’re blessed enough to have any, and find a way to be kind to them. Try to think of their needs; find a way to offer help and support. Wish them a peaceful Shabbat, a peaceful week.

Shabbat Shalom.

RABBI ANDREW KLEIN is rabbi of Temple Habonim in Barrington. He is secretary/treasurer of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island