7 Shvat 5781 / Wednesday, January 20, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bo
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One of the girls looked like she belonged in a heavy metal night club. She was wearing a choker necklace, nearly black lipstick, with a super-short shirt and jeans…


The other night, I was walking back to my house, and in my parking lot stood a small group of teens. One of the girls looked like she belonged in a heavy metal night club. She was wearing super-pale foundation on her face, a choker necklace, nearly black lipstick, and had a short shirt and jeans on. She was hardly unique, but definitely not common here where I live.


As I walked by her, intentionally not gawking at her because I instinctively knew she was just looking for attention, I felt very sorry for her. I saw through her wannabe-cool look, and deep inside, I could sense that she was severely love-deprived.


Now before you dear readers get all crazy on me, I want to let you know that this thought was not a judgmental one about her parents at all. It was just a feeling that came to me in a split second.


This type of teen would be considered off the derech (way of Torah) in religious neighborhoods. Generally, off the derech kids are rebellious against anything Jewish. But, I personally think this is a very misleading term that misdirects the parents’ focus to just getting the kid to want to be Jewish again, rather than to focus on what’s really at the heart of the issue.


If you look at the same type of kid in a secular society, it’s easier to see that they’re lost. Maybe their dress might be a bit more varied, but their demeanor is the same. They’re sullen, depressed or pretending to be depressed because it’s cool, they listen to heavy metal rock bands, and for some reason they love flannel shirts and construction boots. Go figure.


I actually used to love flannel shirts and construction boots myself, but that was when the whole grunge movement exploded on the music scene, with uber-popular groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana infecting the minds of young, naive innocents like me. I wasn’t depressed, but looking back on that time of my life, I was certainly looking for attention.


So in the secular world, these teens are basically written off as just expressing themselves, or depressed, or just acting as posers trying to be cool.


But in both worlds, the adults miss the point. These kids are love-starved! And it could be for any number of reasons. Maybe the parents work long hours and come home late at night, exhausted. Maybe the parents are fighting incessantly and on the way to divorce. Maybe they’re already divorced. Maybe the kid was abused and didn’t receive enough help to heal. Maybe the kid and parents have a tough personal dynamic and don’t get along well.


Whatever the reasons are, and they certainly can be all of the above, it is our fault that we have kids like this. I am speaking to myself as well, because I have one kid who really tests my patience every single second. For some reason, I have less tolerance for his acting up than I do with my other ones. It seems to me that most parents have at least one of these types of kids.


And do you know what? There’s a good reason for that. After much introspection and speaking with Hashem and Dr. Zev Ballen, our Emuna Therapist about it, I have finally come to the clear realization that the kids that we have the hardest time with are the ones that will teach us what love is all about.


It’s easy to love a kid who doesn’t make trouble; who listens; who is adorable; who has an easy temperament. But how easy is it to love a kid who always starts up with his siblings, or doesn’t listen to a word you say, or intentionally does things that go directly against what you expect of him? I would say it’s nearly impossible! If such a kid didn’t come from us, would we even have anything to do with him at all?


Hashem sees what we’re already good at. After all, He gave us those strengths. But that’s not where our real growth in life is. It’s only by dealing with the areas that are hardest for us that we will become the people that Hashem wants us to be.


Of course, it’s easy to say when we’re not being tested. But when we are? Ooooh boy, stand back! Many times, it turns into an all-out war between me and my kid! But now I understand that Hashem wants me to work on things such as patience, patience, and unconditional love. He also wants me to learn how to discipline without losing my cool, which is nearly impossible for an Iraqi drill sergeant like myself.


If your kids are still young enough, you have a life-changing opportunity to prevent a ton of heartache later in life. Even if your kids are already rebelling in some way, you can still fix the situation. Even if you have perfect kids (really?) you still have stuff to work on as parents. So here’s what I suggest: read Rav Shalom Arush’s best parenting guide ever, The Garden of Education. Read it until you internalize it. And then read it again! You should supplement this with the awesome CD from Rav Lazer Brody, All in the Family. Listen to this in your car as much as you can!


Second, meet with our amazing Emuna Therapists, Dr. Zev Ballen or Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen. Every parent needs a little perspective and guidance. After all, the only parenting guidance we got was the way we were raised, and for many of us I can safely say that our parents had no idea what they were doing! You can schedule an appointment with staff@breslev.co.il.


Last but not least, don’t be hard on yourself! Hashem knows we’re not perfect. After all, He made us that way! But, this doesn’t mean we can throw our hands in the air and give up! For the sake of our children, let’s do our best to be our best. OMG, what a fantastic slogan! Ruach Hakodesh, I tell you!



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Feel free to send Racheli your questions, particularly in the areas of marriage, dating, child-rearing and women's role; write her at racheli@breslev.co.il

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