Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Yaakov's Wandering Hands!
Published: Monday, December 29, 2014 02:42:24 PM
Number of views: 2011

The Torah tells us (Bereshit 48:14) that when Yaakov Avinu was blessing his grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe, "he manoeuvred his hands". Yaakov crossed his hands so that his right hand ended up on Ephraim, who was on his left side, and his left hand ended up on Menashe, who was on Yaakov's right side. The fact that Yaakov switched hands teaches us an important lesson about our interpersonal relationships. The right side of a person represents his strengths and his positive qualities. The left side of a person represents his weaknesses, his negative qualities and the areas in which he needs to improve.

When we face a person and stretch out our arms without switching them, we are placing our right arm – the stronger arm – on the other person's left side. This indicates that we are accentuating his "left side", focusing on and reminding him of his faults and deficiencies. When we point our left arm, the weaker arm, at his right side, we are symbolically neglecting to acknowledge his positive attributes.

Yaakov Avinu is teaching us, "switch your hands." When you face a fellow Jew, let your right arm extend to his right side, emphasizing his fine character traits. Give him a meaningful compliment; remind him how important he is to be a member of the Jewish People, and the unique role he has to play in the Nation of Israel. Your left, weaker arm, will extend to his left side, indicating that although everyone has deficiencies, you will not accentuate and focus on his faults.

In order to be successful in our interpersonal relationships, we must follow this formula of focusing on the positive qualities of our fellow Jew, rather than on the negative qualities. We must train ourselves to see the good in our fellow Jew.

The Mishnah tells us that 10 miracles occurred in the Beit Hamikdash (Avot 5:7). One of the miracles was that even when the people stood crowded together in the Temple courtyard, yet there was ample room when they prostrated themselves, "Omdim tzefufim u'mishtachavim revuchim". The Baal Shem Tov homiletically interprets this Mishnah to refer to our interpersonal relationships. If we always stand rigid (omdim), stubbornly refusing to bend or to compromise, then our relationships will be (tzefufim), crowded and miserable.

However, if we are (mishtachavim) able to bend and compromise, to hear someone else's point of view, to listen to what they have to say even when we don't agree, then our interpersonal relationships will (be revuchim) have ample space and will be harmonious.

For our homes to be a true reflection of the Beit Hamikdash, we must emulate this formula of flexibility and compromise. Yaakov's wandering hands is a reminder to work towards this goal.

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