Sunday, December 29, 2013


Oh G-d It Hurts

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

In Crown Heights, the world headquarters for Chabad Lubavitch chassidus, there was an urgent meeting regarding a seeming cult, or at least borderline wacko psychotherapy program, making inroads into the community.  One of the attendees commented “maybe if we knew the rabbonim (rabbis) understood our pain, we wouldn’t flail around trying to grab hold of anything that might help”.

Also this past week there was an article in one of the orthodox Jewish family weekly magazines (I don’t remember if it was Ami or Mishpacha) quoting one of the non-chassidic gedolim (Torah leaders of the generation) where somebody asked the gadol why he didn’t come out against something while another rabbi did, and he responded “Did he have 14 fathers come to him this week praying that their son’s die?”

We do not live in the not-so-distant past where 1 in 3 children would NOT make it to 10 years old.  We do not lose 1 out of every 20 wives and mothers to death by childbirth, nor 1 out of every 20 adults to flu and pneumonia.

We did not suffer through the Holocaust, where ALL the young children were slaughtered and few adults made it – even fewer with ANY family members left.

The memories, even stories, of these horrors and hard times have faded to story, legend, and to be forgotten.

jewcryWe do not understand our incredible blessings of today – but even if we did it would not make our pain any less.

We are religiously observant Jews.  We invest our ALL to make a family, to have children, and to educate them in Torah and Mitzvot (G-d’s commandments), a daily relationship with G-d and a continuance of our holy mesorah (the chain of Jewish tradition).  We wish for nothing more than “yiddeshe nachas”, to see our children succeed in forging their connection with our chain of tradition, to carry out the holy goals of Judaism on to the next generation.

We work long hours, have as many children as G-d will give us, and literally pay college tuition prices to provide each of our children with a proper kosher holy Jewish religious educational environment.  We struggle to raise a large family, to provide all their needs – physical and spiritual – and to pass on our lifestyle, culture, values and religion. 

If, G-d forbid, we lost a child or family member to a pogrom – well, the goyim hated us and used us as a convenient scapegoat and whipping boy, we could understand.  If, G-d forbid, we lost a child or family member to disease… G-d gives and G-d takes – who are we to judge the ways of G-d?


- They’re a wonderful chassidic couple, he’s from generations of rabbis and she’s from famous chassidim.  He works in a religious profession.  He spends much of his time saying tehillim (psalms) and learning Torah, and is incredibly loving with his young children… but his teenage daughter feels repressed.  She insists on dressing inappropriately and acting inappropriately, and his chassidic neighbors literally asked him to move out of the neighborhood (as they didn’t want that lifestyle near them or their children).  He struggles not to be angry with her or throw her out, he feels a failure.  He’s failed where all his ancestors succeeded.  His next daughter recently said she wants to try some of the things the older daughter is doing.  He doesn’t know what to do, at whit’s end.  He always has a smile, but starts crying if you talk to him for a bit.  He’s the kindest and holiest chossid I know.

- They’re an incredible family, always giving.  Money, help, they’re the kind of people you turn to.  He works long and hard, 12 hour days in his business.  But in breaks he’s saying tehillim (psalms) and learning the Torah of the day.  They’ve invested incredible amounts to make sure each child is in a school that fits them, with extra tutoring and even moving communities to make sure each child was getting the best Jewish education that could be provided.  Their 16 year old daughter, attending a top quality Jewish religious school, just informed them that she’s going to start dating.  (Most orthodox Jews don’t date for fun, they wait until 18-22 and date for finding a marriage partner.)  They’re besides themselves, trying to figure out how to get through to her.  Where did they go wrong, where did they fail?  He was crying outside the door at synagogue last week, sure he’s a failure as a Jew.

- I couldn’t believe how giving this chossid was when I found out.  He’s been supporting half the expenses for a synagogue and supplementing the rabbi.  He’s covering teacher’s salaries at a religious school.  He gives VERY generous donations to everyone who shows up at his door and is secretly underwriting several religious institutions. Thank G-d, his business has been holding steady even in difficult economic times.  He’s very dedicated to talmiday chachamim (Torah scholars), having multiple session of learning and Torah lessons being given at his house every week.  And his son…started misbehaving in yeshiva.  Then shouting back at his parents.  He was thrown out of yeshiva, then placed in an institution for troubled boys, which he was then thrown out of.  He could see his son headed into the wrong crowd, so he picked up his family and moved into a tight neighborhood in Jerusalem.  His son’s misbehaviors increased, his family became ostracized.  For the social circumstances of the rest of the children he was forced to move to another community, and had the means to send his son to a “recovery yeshiva” in the U.S.  Does he keep his son away or risk traumatizing the rest of the children again (if only from social rejection)?  He maintains a good face, but begs his rabbis and advisors for good advice.

- He’s a senior rabbi, one of the respected Jewish religious leaders of a major city.  He gave his children the best Jewish education available, personally tutoring them up to the highest levels.  They were the respected children of the rabbi.  It was a pressure, but also an honor… except for his son.  He hit a certain age and just seemed to go wild.  Besides the continuous embarrassment, he began getting into real trouble with the law.  To get him out of the environment, his father packed him up and sent him off to a “problem boys” yeshiva in Israel.  He actually did well there, but upon returning home became violent with his father.  He headed to the airport, got on a plane back to Israel and joined the IDF – going into the hardest infantry combat unit Golani.  He’s committed to never speaking to his father again.

- They’re an average chassidic couple with many children.  The father works and helps out at the synagogue, the mother takes care of the children and is involved with ladies Torah events for the community.  Their son just didn’t fit at yeshiva, was tested for ADHD, given medication, and then thrown out.  They tried a second and third yeshiva, each more expensive and specialized, which seemed to leave the son more traumatized and more wild.  At the next school the son told a therapist his parents were “torturing” him, which promptly brought a child services investigation and police investigation.  Now paying for psychologists, psychiatrist, therapists, and a lawyer, the family finances began to crumble under the pressure.  The formally stable family began to suffer as the father had trouble working under the pressure and the mother becoming a nervous wreck.  The son’s behavior did not improve, and now the police were at the door looking for the son.  The costs increased to 2 lawyers, one defending the parents, one representing the son.  The father still puts on a smile and helps out a synagogue, the mother still helps organize community events for the women.  Then they go home and ask each other how their failed as Jews.  The son, now in a “last chance recovery yeshiva”, called to let them know the police showed up at his yeshiva asking for him to be brought out a few days ago.  For some reason they left before he was retrieved – now the parents sit on pins and needles not knowing what to expect this time.

I could go on, for far too many families have such experiences.  Some people talk about the “off the derech” problem, but for these families it means FAILURE and FAMILY AGONY, and often it seems to only get worse.  This is the pain of today.  And the problem is they feel IT’S THEIR OWN FAULT, and THERE IS NO WAY TO FIX IT.

That’s the difference of today.  The terrible occurrences of life of the past all seemed designated from Above.  Today the failure seems to come from within.

They’d love to hide it, and usually do.  The embarrassment, their FAILURE hanging in front of them in public, others who then want to stay away from them (to at least avoid the impact of the problematic child on their children) – these things aren’t talked about in polite company.  That’s probably an error, as they lose out on each other’s and community help.

But that’s the situation today.  By the way, one of the stories above is mine.


  1. Dear Reb Akiva,
    May you find strength in the situation that you have. I will daven to Hashem for success in this for you. I, too have my fears and do not wish to post here. I wish you well and may we see yeshuos in this.

  2. Only one of them is you?
    The first three examples are ME!
    I am seriously ready to give up.

  3. Dear Reb Akiva,
    May Hashem send a spiritual refuah for your precious child. We had one thrown out of yeshiva, thought it was the end of the world, cv"s, however 3 years later, he is slowly coming back. Us giving him the freedom to go to university gave him the freedom to start finding Hashem on his own terms. May we all be blessed with Yiddishe naches from our kinderlach.

  4. Dear Reb Akiva,

    Can you please give us more specific information, regarding "this seeming cult/borderline wacko psycho program, that you mentioned in your latest blog.

    What are the suggestions from the Rebbeim from 770 re our children, staying on the right path?

    I would appreciate any advice, you can share.

    Kol Tuv,


  5. 14 fathers come to him this week praying that their son’s die
    Hashem Yerachem!
    Don't these Yidden realize that Hashem has more sorrow from them and their prayers than He has from the children themselves?
    The heilige Baal Shem Tov taught us that Hashem loves every Yid, even the farthest off the way, as a single child!
    At least in their case, perhaps we now have an insight as to why their children didn't want any part of their parents' Yiddishkeit.
    Whereas in your case, Reb Akiva, and mine, and many others, who are doing our best to embrace and not reject, and all of our prayers are just that the wayward children come home – let’s put our faith in Hashem who knows what’s best for us and for our children, and stop feeling ”IT’S THEIR OWN FAULT, and THERE IS NO WAY TO FIX IT”
    I think that this week’s Parasha is very pertinent. In the plague of darkness, 4/5ths of the Jews in Egypt died – those that didn’t believe that Moshe had come on Hashem’s mission to redeem them. Can you imagine the pain and sorrow of everyone losing their loved ones, parents losing their children, etc., on the verge of their redemption? Yet it says: ולכל בני ישראל היה אור במושבותם .
    Every Jew had light! Not just physical light – a light that shone through all their kushiot, all their pain and sorrow, and everyone saw and realized with complete certainty that everything Hashem does is for the very best.
    May we all zoche to receive this light very soon.

  6. The thought that occurs to me while reading is that this is a perfect reflection of how we are behaving with Hashem. The rebellion of the children is a mirror of the rebellion of G-d's children as a whole. If we will be like Moshe Rabeinu, whom we are reading about throughout the current parshiot, and intervene on their behalf and ask for mercy, we will surely receive mercy for ourselves. No offense or disrespect intended, but it comes across that the parents are more concerned with how they are being affected by the children's behavior than with what is motivating the children to behave this way. It also strikes me that these are special souls who've come down to teach some vital lessons. And I'm speaking also as a parent with a child "off the derech."

  7. With tears in my eyes I daven for your child, my child, and all of the children who have trouble seeing Hashem in this dark world. May Hashem give you, and me, and all of the parents so disappointed by their children's rejection of everything we hold dear, the strength to continue, and accept, and daven, and always hope.

  8. Akiva,


    Your pain is Kelal Yisrael's pain. We all wish you well and may Hashem help you and your family along with all the families above.

  9. Devash,
    Although I’ve only known Reb Akiva through his blog, he doesn’t strike me as one who is more concerned with himself than with his children’s own welfare, so out of respect for our host, I feel obliged to remark that you definitely didn’t intend to include him in your generalization.

  10. Dan G, for sure! I wouldn't have stuck around here it that were not the truth, but you can't ignore that religious people live in communities, whether they are tight or wide, and they/we are visible to others like they are visible to us. In the Haredi communities, the prejudice is so high, that you are judged by the most superficial items. It's not possible to talk only about private issues because the public image is part of the package.

  11. Akiva: Shtarkzich Bruder ! (Be strong, my brother!)

    May Hashem have nachas from all of his children.

    All the best

  12. Reb Akiva, I just want to lend a few words in support of you and all the parents involved - and all of us.

    We must strive to keep the light in our path so our sons and daughters will be able to find their way back in due time...and hold them in our hearts with love despite what others may think. Each one is a test for the entire family, not just the parents. That said, in the end we are not in America (thank G-d!), where no one is responsible for anything. Our children share the responsibility with us for how they behave and the effect they have on those close to them, and we have to believe that they will see that one day. And HaShem is still in charge.

    I have a similar situation, but more difficult to explain here.

    Blessings to all,
    CDG, Yerushalayim

  13. I just found out about this online book that might answer a lot of questions about why some of our children take the directions they do. It's called The Rainbow Swastika by Hannah Newman

    I have begun to read it and so far find it worthwhile.

    CDG, Yerushalayim

  14. Adina,

    There's a discussion of such on the Crown Heights and Chabad community blogs. I prefer not to get into it here. Email me directly if you don't know the sources I'm talking about.


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