I think that older siblings who have been “skipped” may relate to my question. I am a twenty-four-year old single girl and my younger sister recently became engaged. I find myself in an uncomfortable and pressured position now to give what is commonly referred to as “mechilah,” either by expressing it verbally to my sister or through a kesav mechilah.
I have heard stories of difficulties occurring to individuals who skipped an older sibling. Several of my relatives have experienced this phenomenon harshly (e.g., not having children for many years, even after the skipped sibling eventually married) and I understand my family’s fear of ayin hara. What I don’t understand is the concept of mechilah in this area. I don’t think it is a matter of forgiveness – my sister is not at fault – but rather an indirect source of tremendous pain.
Please don’t think I’m not happy for her. I never considered making her wait for me and sincerely hope that she will have a wonderful marriage. I wish her only good in her life, but I cannot force my heart to go somewhere it is not. A two- or three-month engagement is not enough time to work through the pain. This same pain will surface often during that time and afterwards, growing more intense as the chasunah nears with the well-meant “Im yirtzeh Hashem by yous” and frequent reminders of my own state facing me daily at every turn.
To approach my sister beleiv shaleim and verbally say, “I am mochel,” is just too much salt on the wound. It would take enough effort and far more time to reach that state even mentally. I feel that it is meaningless to say it because I am required, under pressure, to do so. Will this technical statement really deflect ayin hara when the pain is still so strong despite the goodwill towards my sister? Can a deadline really be put on such a situation? No matter what, the pain will still be there strongly.
Can the panelists come up with a sensitive and meaningful way to effectively approach this issue? I want to do the right thing and really don’t want my sister to be hurt.
Before I begin my reply to your question, I would like to commend you on your honesty while facing such a multi-layered and sensitive issue, as well as your concern towards your sister regarding an issue that is quite painful for you yourself.
In speaking with local Rabbanim, I understand that the inyan of asking for mechila in this circumstance is not a halachic requirement, and is not nearly as black and white as just a request for mechila by the younger sibling followed by a yes from the older one. The purpose of the mechila is not to act as a magical nullification of an eyin hora, rather it is to foster as much shalom v’shalva as possible, given the situation.
To expect that by an older sibling merely stating that they are moichel could or should alleviate their pain is both insensitive and unrealistic, and to expect that the younger sibling should wait indefinitely to begin dating is equally as insensitive and unrealistic. Furthermore, it puts both siblings in very uncomfortable position, as each one is very much aware of the difficult position their sibling is in, and they know in their hearts that a two sentence conversation is nothing more than a glossing over of very important and sensitive issue. The real goal here is to create a working understanding between both the siblings and their parents so that they may all take their respective next practical steps, in a dignified way, and to minimize both pain and discomfort to as great a degree as possible.
It would appear to me that the most realistic and appropriate way to accomplish this goal, as trite as this may sound, is by having a family meeting. As soon as someone foresees that such an issue is arising in the family, both of the siblings should sit down with their parents, under the guidance of a Rov or teacher if necessary, and have an open and honest conversation about the issue. It is within the boundaries of the larger discussion that the mechila is given. The conclusion will be different for each family, but some of what should be discussed is the following: at what point will the younger sibling begin to date even if their older sibling is still single, and within the family, how will the matter be dealt with as long as it remains. To have everyone in the house walking on eggshells, unsure of what to say or do in any given situation in fear of hurting the feelings of one sibling or the other, is an impossible way to proceed.
This is not to say that by having such a conversation, the older sibling will become pain free, nor will it make it so that the younger sibling will never feel uncomfortable to freely date and talk about dating around the house. What it will hopefully accomplish, however, is to allow the family to decide together, at the earliest point possible, how to best handle the situation. By doing so, it gives each person involved the opportunity to know exactly where everyone else stands and how they feel, which will in turn enable them to understand and manage the expectations and sensitivities of each sibling, as they do their utmost to navigate this situation.
B’ezras Hashem, this will in some way create a level of comfort for all involved. At least enough that each sibling, along with their parents, can continue to practically move forward with clarity on all fronts, and do what is necessary and correct for each sibling.