Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about a problem that I have every Pesach. I would like to begin by saying that I am already a very young great-grandmother and I have an older sister who is an amazing person. We are both happily married and share a loving close relationship. She also has a beautiful family and even more great-grandchildren than I have! It all sounds perfect, right? So why am I writing to you?
I just want to tell you my story and see if you have any solutions for me. Our parents were both Holocaust survivors who lost their entire families in the war. We don’t know much about their experiences as they never shared anything with us and are both, unfortunately, no longer alive.
Sadly, our house was not a happy one. My mother and father tried really hard to be great parents, but they had a hard time with their traumatic memories. My house was run with great efficiency. Dinner was always delicious and ready on time. They worked very hard to give us everything they could. Nevertheless, my parents never really understood me and my sister was more of my emotional parent. She made sure I had what I wanted, because “all the other kids had,” even if it meant spending her own hard-earned money on it.
Fast forward many years. While my sister’s husband earns a decent living and they live nicely, my husband and I were zoche to become very well off. We are very generous with my sister and her family as my hakaras hatov runs very deep. We give her married children, who are struggling, money and we also sometimes buy my sister huge gifts that she would never allow herself to buy – my sister is a very practical person who will only buy what is necessary.
My love for my sister is very deep and I want her to learn to enjoy her life. This is true especially on Pesach. My family goes away every Pesach with the Katz Family and really enjoy ourselves. That is one of the reasons I choose to write to you, as I know that you have been going to the program for a long time.
Every year I beg my sister to come with us. It would be our pleasure to treat her whole family, but every year she declines. At first I thought that she felt bad spending our money. I told her that I could never repay her for what she did for me as a child – she saved my spiritual and emotional life. However, I soon realized that there is a deeper problem.
I think the problem is that she is my older sister and I have a life more financially successful than hers.
I know that people say sibling rivalry is the oldest problem in the world, but we understand the feeling of being a sole survivor and we cherish each other and our families. But, I have come to the realization that maybe it is too hard for her to go away with us and have us pay for it all. Maybe it makes her feel bad and maybe she is even a little jealous of our financial success. I wish I could change this and help her without her feeling badly about it. Please give me ideas on how to deal with this.
A Loving Sister
Dear Loving Sister,
I hear your pain and I understand the deep love you have for your sister. Without knowing her it is hard for me to say exactly what the problem is, but let’s assume that in her mind she should have been the one taking care of you financially, not the reverse. She was placed in the role of parent at a very young age and was therefore robbed of her own childhood.