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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Giving Up On Rebellious Children? (Part One)

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

“Almighty G-d, I know that we, Your people, are not deserving of Your favor. We have transgressed Your commandments – but nevertheless I beseech You to bless us with a year of good and plenty. And should You respond that I have no basis on which to make such a request since we are not deserving of Your favor, then I will tell you frankly what others may not. I too am a father, and my son has also rebelled against me. And yet if someone were to suggest that I disown him, that I cast him away from my sight, I would throw that person out, for no matter what, he is still my son.”

The members of the committee trembled with shame. Without uttering a word they left. Unbeknownst to the Rebbe and the committee, the errant son had also heard his father’s prayer. Unable to contain himself, he cried inconsolably and made a silent vow to justify his father’s unbounded love.

I told this troubled mother that story. “Oh, Rebbetzin,” she said as tears flowed down her cheeks. “I will tell this story to my husband and I hope he will come around. But do you think you will be able to reach my son?”

“We have to pray for it,” I told her. “We need a miracle but I can assure you I will try my best, and let’s hope G-d will grant me the words with which to open his heart.”

A few days later she called me. I had difficulty understanding what she was saying. Her uncontrolled weeping choked her words. “Rebbetzin,” she gasped, “my husband refuses to retain an attorney on behalf of our son.” He actually said, ‘Let him rot in jail.’ What do I do?”

“Go to all the members of your family and your trusted friends,” I replied. “Tell them your story and ask them to help.”

“Rebbetzin,” she whispered, “I’m ashamed to do that. They all know he is troubled but this they do not know.”

“When it comes to saving your son’s life,” I told her, “there’s no room for shame or embarrassment. G-d forbid if he ends up in jail and comes under the influence of thieves and murderers, he will emerge worse than ever. And I won’t even speak of situations of abuse that occur in prison. Your son is young and impressionable. In such an environment he could easily lose the last flicker of decency he may still have. So we have to do everything in our human capacity to save him. The rest is up to G-d.”

I told her that my saintly father, HaRav HaGoan HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, always reminded us in difficult times of G-d’s promise: “U’verachtecha – and I shall bless you in everything that you will do.”

My father would explain, “You have only to do all that you can within your power and the berochos will come from Hashem.”

I told the anguished woman that I had always tried to keep my father’s teaching in mind throughout life’s trials and challenges. She whispered, “Rebbetzin, I promise you I will try.”

(To Be Continued)

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