Sometimes I don’t know who helps whom more, the “healer” or the one who comes for “healing.”

Lily sat in front of me, her leg swollen, hot and red. I put my hands on it. All I did was touch it. Her reaction surprised me. She sighed, a good sigh, a tired sigh that one lets out when finally home after a long journey. “Why didn’t I come to you sooner?” she asked. “It feels better already.”

“But I didn’t do anything yet.”

“Of course you did: you are giving attention to it. Nobody does, and the little massage I can do to myself isn’t enough.”

As I worked to get the blood going and the energy and lymph flowing, Lily spoke. She spoke about the past. She spoke about the present. I She survived terror, hunger and diseasewas shocked to find out that the woman in front of me was a Holocaust survivor. Her mother bore her in the beginning of the war. She survived terror, hunger and disease. She survived the camps. By the time she was four, Lily had survived and lived more lives than a person of a hundred and twenty.

I massaged; Lily spoke. I listened; Lily taught. As Lily told me about her childhood, she taught me an important lesson. Lily was the eldest of three children. She was the tall one. She was the smart one. She was the strong one. She was the eldest. Lily kept repeating to me, over and over, “I always had to give in to the others. My mother told me, ‘You are the tallest, the smartest, the strongest. You are the oldest. You must give in to them.’” That meant Lily never got to go first. She never had a toy of her own. She was never right when it came to a quarrel with one of her siblings. And even if she was, it didn’t matter, because after all she was the oldest, and the oldest has to give in to the younger ones. She was the oldest, and the oldest always has to know better.

Suddenly, in the midst of her storytelling, Lily became quiet. And then she told me: “You have three children. Don’t make the oldest always give in to the younger ones. Don’t think that the eight-year-old knows better than the five-year-old. He doesn’t. Don’t expect them to play together and be friends if you treat them differently. Because if you do, you will turn them into enemies instead of friends.”

These were the words of Lily.

They were strong. They were straight. They were right.

How many times is the eldest playing with a ball when the toddler comes along and wants it? The eldest doesn’t give it to him—after all, he was playing with it. So the toddler starts to cry, and you say, “Can’t you just give him the ball?” Wasn’t it his ball? Why does he always have to give in to the toddler just because the toddler knows how to cry?

Or, you are in the park and everyone is hungry. You always give the middle one food first. Why? Because she’s thinner than the rest; because she cries more than the rest. She always gets first. Do you really They were strong. They were straight. They were right.think it is possible to measure hunger? Why do the other ones always get served second just because she’s thinner?

The examples from our lives go on and on. Lily is right. We see this in our holy Torah:

This is Aaron and Moses, to whom G‑d said: “Take the children of Israel out of Egypt according to their legions.” They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to take the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; they are Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 6:26–27)

On these verses, the famous commentator Rashi writes:

This is Aaron and Moses: Who are mentioned above, whom Yocheved bore to Amram—[these two] are [the same] Aaron and Moses “to whom G‑d said,” etc. In some places [Scripture] places Aaron before Moses, and in other places it places Moses before Aaron, to tell us that they were equal.

They are Moses and Aaron: They remained in their mission and in their righteousness from beginning to end.

Even though they were both great, Moses was without a doubt the leader of the nation of Israel. Aaron was older than Moses, but G‑d chose Moses because He saw that Moses was the most qualified one to be the leader of Israel. Moses’ mission in life was to lead Israel. Aaron had a different mission, and even though Moses worried about offending his older brother’s honor, Aaron wasn’t jealous. The Torah relates that G‑d told Moses that Aaron “will see you and rejoice in his heart.”

I think that there was no jealousy and that they had such respect for each other because no one ever compared them to each other. Despite the fact that they had different missions and roles, they were given “equal significance.” Sometimes Aaron went first, and sometimes Moses went first.

As a parent, it’s so hard not to fall into patterns. You don’t even realize it, but if you take a step back for a moment, you might see how you always give one child first, or you always give one child more than the others. It could be the one who cries loudest, and you just want to quiet him. It could be that you do it to the one you most identify with. Or it could be to the one you identify with the least, and you are trying to make up for it by Sometimes Aaron went first, and sometimes Moses went firstovercompensating. Your intentions are good; you don’t even notice that you do it, but you do.

By the end of our session, Lily said that her leg started to feel better. I attribute part of her pain to exhaustion. Lily’s tired. She’s tired of always having to be the strongest and tallest. She’s tired of always having to give in. She’s tired of standing on her own. I squeeze her toes and massage the leg one more time before thanking her for sharing her stories with me.

The next time the five-year-old is jumping rope and the two-year-old comes along and wants her rope, I stop myself from saying, “Can’t you just give it to him a little bit?” Instead I tell him, “She was playing with it first.” I let him have a tantrum over it, and I pick him up, kiss him, and try to distract him with another toy. My five-year-old smiles at me with a look of gratitude.

Thank you, Lily, for your words of advice.