Rabbi Daniel Kalish, menahel of our mesivta, recently related the following powerful message: A couple who are active in kiruv told him about the challenges they were having with one of their children. They said, “We want to show the unaffiliated Jews we encounter what a beautiful Jewish home looks like, but our son’s wild behavior hurts our otherwise peaceful environment.”
Rabbi Kalish told them, “You need to remember that Hashem is running the show and He makes no mistakes. He didn’t send your child to the wrong family by accident. It is precisely by Hashem’s design. Either you can stop bringing people over if you deem that necessary, or you can work with the situation in the best possible way. Perhaps the guests need to see the beauty of how you treat a more challenging child. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t feel that this child is messing up your lofty goals, for this is not the case.”
Rabbi Kalish applied the relevance of this lesson to every area of our life. To paraphrase: Our challenges and obstacles are not in the way of our life’s mission, but are part and parcel of the mission itself.
Let us continue here with its application to parenting. The child who is not conducting himself properly poses a great challenge for his parents and the rest of the family. Parents understandably feel that this child is ruining the peace in the house and is being a negative influence on his siblings.
Allow me to share with you one of my all-time favorite vertlach. Some people suggest that such a child should be sent out of the house, pointing to Avrohom Avinu, who sent away Yishmoel to protect Yitzchok. While hopefully such a shailah never needs to be asked, let me just say that this illustration of Avrohom and Yishmoel points to precisely the opposite conclusion.
Avrohom does not want to send away Yishmoel as Sarah requests, but Hashem says (Bereishis 21:12), “Kol asher tomar ailecha Sarah shema bekolah – Whatever Sarah tells you, you should listen to her voice.” But it doesn’t stop there. Hashem continues with an explanation for this command: “Ki veYitzchok yikorei lecha zara – Because in Yitzchok is considered your offspring.” Because Yitzchok is Avrohom’s true progeny who Yidden will descend from, Sarah is therefore correct that Yishmoel needs to be sent away. The implication is that otherwise, if they were both full-fledged Jewish children, Yishmoel would not be sent away to protect Yitzchok.
If one of our children appears to be a negative influence on his siblings, it is certainly a very tough situation to navigate, and often requires careful guidance, but we need to have emunah that for whatever reason, this is what the family needs to achieve its tachlis. This challenging child is not an obstacle and a hindrance to the rest of his family’s growth. Rather, he and all that he brings are precisely what they need in order to achieve ultimate growth.
There is no question that today, more than ever, we need emunah to have the strength to properly handle the myriad challenges thrown our way. May we be zoche to strengthen our emunah and embrace our children and lives with joy.
• • • • •
Rabbi Kestenbaum works with children, teens, and parents. He now has offices in Passaic, NJ. and Cedarhurst, NY. He can be contacted at email@example.com for private appointments or parenting workshops. His shiurim and past articles can be found at heartofparenting.com and waterburyyeshiva.org.
Rabbi Kestenbaum is the author of “Olam Hamiddos,” “Olam Ha’avodah,” “Run After the Right Kavod,” and “The Heart of Parenting.”
This challenging child is precisely what the family needs in order to achieve ultimate growth.