I still can’t get that homeless kid on the bench out of my mind. You know, the one who got kicked out of his home on a Friday night, presumably because he’d done something to break Shabbat.
The last two weeks, I’ve been thinking it over and over – how can parents do that to their own flesh and blood? How can people have so little empathy, so little understanding, for what it really means to be a teen growing up in 2018?
I know that somewhere along the line, that kid’s soul agreed to all this, and that being kicked out of his house is something that he needs for his own tikkun, or spiritual rectification. God doesn’t make mistakes, and everything that’s happening is meaningful, and on some very deep level, 100% deserved.
But at the same time, I can’t get over how utterly clueless this kid’s parents really must be.
In a nutshell, here’s the problem: Most people today have really bad middot.
And, because most people today also have really weak emuna, they don’t know, or don’t understand, or don’t want to accept that all that bad stuff they see in their kids, and especially their teens, is actually just their own bad middot being reflected back at them, and amplified.
Rav Arush (and a bunch of the other genuine Breslov rabbis) talk about this a lot. For example, in Maayan Ganim (a compilation of some of the best bits from a lot of his books), we find the following:
P 278: “One of the first things that a parent needs to do is to check whether or not they are excessively scaring their children. And if they are – then they need to completely stop doing this. Parents are obliged to be good friends with their children. Their children should be able to tell their parents everything, without fear.”
And, we also find this:
P 244: “If a parent sees some sort of hisaron (lack /issue) in their children, they should take it a sign that they themselves still have some work to do. Then, the parent will see with their own eyes how slowly, slowly, this starts to effect the child, and the whole household.”
I do my very best to follow this advice, and I have to tell you: I have a great relationship with my teens, Baruch Hashem, bli ayin hara.
And again, that last one is really what I see so few other parents, frum or not, chareidi or not, really doing in any way, shape or form.
I know, it’s hard.
It’s much easier to try to outsource everything to the school shrink, or just get some Cipraxil for Junior, or to blame the kid’s friends, or all the sugar they mainline from the school kiosk.
I know how much guilt most of us parents are lugging around, how much worry, how much internal panic and overwhelm, how much stress.
But, until we really accept that:
Our kids’ problems all boil down to our own, unrectified bad middot
We just ain’t going to get to Moshiach, any time soon.
And this is also closely connected to the whole subject of proper rebuke, that we’ve been discussing, because to put it bluntly:
Only disturbed individuals enjoy criticizing other people – and this goes double, when it comes to criticizing our children.
Again, people go to such great pains to dress up their own bad middot as ‘chinuch’, or some big mitzvah from the Shulchan Aruch, but the simple fact is that THE WORLD IS JUST A MIRROR.
So the more you feel compelled to blast other people’s issues and bad middot, and the more ‘bad’ you see in other Jews – and again, especially your own kids – the more ‘bad’ you really just have in yourself.
All the critics in our midst find this idea extremely hard to swallow. I know that until I started to really get to grips with my own bad middot, I also used to find this an extremely upsetting and disturbing idea.
What, I should just let ‘bad’ have a free hand? I shouldn’t try to protest? I shouldn’t try to fight all the darkness out there?!
It’s taken me years and years and years to finally realise that the one place I need to be fighting the darkness is solely within. I am the only person I can really influence, I am the only person I can really affect, I am the only person I can really improve.
Sure, we have to still protest BAD BEHAVIOR, and bad deeds, of course we have to do that.
But, there’s a world of difference between criticizing a bad action, and painting someone as a globally ‘bad’ person.
All of us, even the biggest saints, will occasionally do bad actions. That’s what teshuva is for, and that is why we all are meant to be doing a cheshbon hanefesh every single day, to try to catch those ‘bad’ actions in ourselves.
But when it comes to being able to say who is really a ‘bad’ person – no-one is on the level to judge that. Only God.
Again, the critics in our midst hate this idea.
They prefer to split the world up into ‘good’ people, who can do no wrong even though they are filled to the brim with bad actions and evil speech, and ‘bad’ people, who can do no right, and who will never make teshuva, and must be condemned to everlasting purgatory.
But this isn’t authentic Judaism.
And it certainly isn’t chassidut.
And it definitely isn’t Breslov.
What it is, really, is just an excuse for people to keep indulging their own bad middot, and to avoid having to face down their own demons, and to carry on blaming everyone else for the fact that Moshiach didn’t show up yet.
And personally, I’m so sick of it.
So, to sum this post up: People who enjoy criticizing others are very disturbed people who are doing untold damage to the world, and particularly their own families; and the main and really ONLY person we should be rebuking is
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