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Dealing With Rebellious Teenagers

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

My husband, Rabbi Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, always advised parents with troubled children to avoid arguments. You cannot force observance of Torah on them. You can only embrace them with love and pray that your loving attitude will spark commitment and faith.

Jacob was not just challenged with Reuben but even with his grandchildren. It is written that when he felt he was dying he summoned Joseph’s sons – Jacob’s grandsons – so that he might bless them. Until the very last moment of his life Jacob was sharp – clear-minded, with perfect vision. Suddenly, however, something strange occurred. With an anguished cry, Jacob asked, “Who are these boys?” as he pointed to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe. His question was incomprehensible. These two grandsons were the apples of his eye. Day after day they left the palace so that they might learn Torah from their grandfather. Jacob knew their voices. Their faces were etched on his mind. So how on earth could he ask such a question?

Our sages explain that through ruach haKodesh he saw that from these boys rebellious and disloyal sons would emerge and mislead the Jewish people. Joseph assured him that the chain of Torah would be unbroken. But Jacob knew they would need special blessings.

“Bring them to me,” he cried, “so I might bless them – kiss them and hug them.” That blessing, that kiss, that hug, remained with them forever and can resurface in every generation. We must only repeat what Jacob said and did. Bless them. Kiss them. Hug them. Eventually the fruits will come forth and the family tree will bloom again. It never fails. I have seen it not once but many times.

So, then, do not send Benny away but love him more. You indicated in your letter that you told your daughters love is the best the way to react to their brother’s anti-Torah behavior. I realize it was easier for you to tell this to your girls than it is for you and your husband to internalize it. I also realize that while you may understand this logically, emotionally you have difficulty dealing with it.

You feel conflicted. On the one hand you wish to protect your daughters; on the other hand, in your innermost heart you know that if you send Benny away his downward spiral will continue at even greater speed. So tell your daughters that they must be patient. Explain to them the consequences that may occur if Benny is sent away. Children are very sensitive. If they are spoken to as adults – if they are asked to help – they will respond positively.

And tell your precious daughters that if they follow your advice, the family will one day be healed and Torah will illuminate your home.

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