12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Living With a Hole    

Living With a Hole

Who doesn't have some painful void in their life? Who hasn't had some type of traumatic experience? What do we do about it? How do we teach our children to handle it?


A lot has been written about the difficulties of raising children in these challenging times. A major element necessary to understand our children (and ourselves) is an awareness of the emotional and spiritual struggles of so many young men and young women trying to find their way on the road of life. I don’t know why, but surprisingly large percentages of today’s youth seem to feel so much pain and emptiness. They want to be heard and understood, and, of course, we should try to hear and understand them. Even so, I think there is an important and related part of the picture that is often overlooked.

As much as we need to focus on our children, there is a group of people who are severely affected by the difficulties facing the family that don’t get their due share of attention: the parents. As draining and overwhelming it is for many young people today, many parents live with a continual concern about the future of their sons and daughters. Specifically, for parents of “difficult” children, especially those caught in the cycle of negative behavior, life can be overwhelming and draining. It is so painful to speak to parents whose children are “off the derech”, distant from Hashem and His Torah as well as involved in self-destructive behavior. This portrayal of the problem is possibly exaggerated but for many parents the challenges feel and are often overwhelming.

So much anguish and distress fills the hearts of the parents, and, in my experience, particularly the mothers. If I could simplify the sense of how many parents feel about raising challenging children, I would call it “living with a hole”. There is an emptiness of self-doubt and confusion of “why?” “Didn’t I show and share my love? Didn’t I provide as much care as my neighbor whose children are seemingly happy and well-rounded? What should I do now to reconnect to my child/children?”
Honestly, there are no simple answers to these painful questions. Even so, we are a people of great faith and I want to share one possible approach to this issue which, I pray, will provide a path of hope.
Recently, I’ve been talking with one of the special graduates of our Yeshiva. He was bemoaning the lack of love he received as a child (sound familiar?). Fortunately, we came to a certain understanding of his situation. He described his feeling as a hole, as mentioned above. After discussing the emptiness symbolized by a hole, we came to the conclusion that he needed to come to terms with the fact that he has a hole. He’s been continually looking for a “solution” and, so far, making peace with his reality has brought substantial comfort to him. He has been spending time “sitting” by his hole. What I think this means is coming to terms and living with a reality that he didn’t ask for and doesn’t really want. This approach is basically a reflection of a growing sense of emunah, translated it into a specific parable reflecting a sense of calm in the face of adversity.
“Sitting by the hole” has two major benefits. First, it can help remove the desperation for quick answers. “This is painful, but I can live with it. Hashem loves me and I don’t understand why this is happening. Even so, I’m going to try to make peace with the hole I have.” Yes, it’s ok to cry about the hole, to get angry about the hole, or however else you want to react.  But the bottom line is there’s a hole and you have the strength and courage to know it’s there and not get swallowed by it.
The other major benefit is for your children. Nothing impacts a child (even a “grown-up” one) as seeing a parent handling a difficult situation with equanimity. The child also has a hole (don’t we all?) and that’s scary to him. If he sees the parent living with or gaining a sense of calm about the hole, the effect can be powerful. The child can get the message that life has holes and that it’s possible to live with a lack of clarity. Hopefully, the child will gain a sense of equilibrium which will lead him to better and healthier places.
This is not a superficial suggestion since the issues are not superficial. Of course, prayer is always essential for any successes we yearn for. May Hashem give us the strength and clarity to make peace with our individual holes, to see our holes slowly heal, and to enjoy healing and joy from our children.
* * *
Rabbi Dovid Charlop is on the teaching staff of the Neve Tzion Yeshiva in Telzstone, Israel. You can see more of Rabbi Charlop's articles here

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  everyone born with Hashem shaped hole
Suzanne8/26/2014 11:58:52 AM

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