He became suspicious when he won at thumb wrestling.
Ari had never beaten Shira at thumb wrestling. Never. Not once.Then he beat her twice in one day.
The same thing happened with ping pong. He had once defeated his older sister when she played lefty—one arm literally tied behind her back, as she had always threatened-- but only that one time. Otherwise she was a ruthless competitor. She didn’t just win; she would shut him out if she could. And slam the ball across the table like her life depended on it; and that was at 20-0.
One time when she was crushing him in racquetball, 15-1, Ari said to his sister: “I thought you said we were going to have fun today.”
“This IS fun,” she said as she smashed another shot off the wall toward his cowering body.
Then today he beat her in ping pong 21-8. And Shira seemed fine with the loss. It was eerie.
In their second game, when he was up 10-3, he couldn’t stand it anymore.
“O.K., what gives?”
“What do you mean?” Shira asked innocently.
“I think you’re letting me win.”
“Why, that’s ridiculous!” Shira said. “I would never do that. You just happened to win fair and square.”
Ari studied Shira’s face and could tell she was lying (that was the way he managed to beat her in board games like Stratego and Mastermind; she was a terrible bluffer).
“Come clean Shira, I know when you’re prevaricating.”
“Prevaricating. You know, dissembling.”
“You know, fibbing.”(Ari had a prodigious vocabulary, though he stank at feats requiring manual dexterity).
“Are you accusing me of lying?” Shira said, closing the gap between them until she was right in his face.
Ari thought long and hard before he answered this. He was ten years old now, but his older and much bigger sister was not beyond beating the proverbial snot out of him. Still, sometimes you just have to take a stand.
“Yes, I guess I am,” Ari said, bracing himself for the physical onslaught. “You’re a big, fat liar. Pants on fire and everything. I could never beat you in ping pong unless you let me. And forget about thumb wrestling.”
Shira stayed right in his face for a few more seconds and then crumbled.
“O.K. you got me. I let you win.”
“Shocking stuff, Shira.”
“I know, right?”
“So what gives?”
“It’s this week’s parsha. It just got to me.”
“Toledot? What is it, that Dad likes me better?”
“In your dreams, short stuff. You know I’m his favorite.”
“Yeah, as if. So then if that’s not it then what is it?”
“It’s the whole sibling rivalry thing,” Shira said. “Yaakov comes out grabbing Esav’s heal. Yaakov buys the first-born rights for a bowl of soup. Each parent has a favorite. Yaakov, after being counseled by his mother, steal’s Esav’s blessing. Esav vows to kill him. It’s just too much for me.”
“So you let me win at ping pong?”
“Yup. I figured I need to tone down the whole competition thing. I don’t want to build up resentment between us. If we can learn to coexist now, maybe we can avoid problems later in life.”
“You mean like me coming with a force of hundreds of men to greet you in the desert and you sending me lots of gifts to appease me?” Ari asked.
“Well, first of all, I would definitely be the one with the four hundred men, and you would clearly be the one sending me gifts. You are SO the one who sat studying in the tent while I’m out in the field hunting.”
“True enough,” Ari agreed.
“But yes, that is the basic idea,” Shira said. “I don’t want to constantly dominate in everything we do. It’s going to cause resentment. I want us to always be close. So I figured I would let you win.”
“That’s a very nice sentiment, Shira, but I don’t think you have to worry about it.”
“And why is that?”
“First of all, I don’t mind that you beat me in ping pong, thumb wrestling, racquetball, skee ball, and every other sport. It just makes me try harder. And it makes me appreciate the areas where I’m better than you.”
“Like vocabulary, spelling, math, Monopoly-“
“You are so not better than me in Monopoly!”
“Whatever. You get my point. I’m sure that Esav being a good hunter and a man of the field spurred Yaakov to study even harder. And when he eventually wrestled with the angel, I’m sure he was a better fighter because of his big, strong brother.”
“Thanks. There’s also another point to consider.”
“And what’s that?”
“I’m only ten. I still have a lot of growing to do, and someday, I’m going to crush you like a fly in ping pong. So you had might as well win while you still can.”
“In your dreams, pipsqueak.”
“I believe that time and genetics are on my side.”
“There are things that can be done about that.”
“I shudder wondering what you could possibly mean by that.”