Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the Shabbat weekly, Gilui Da’at:
She can’t forget the bitter news: “Your daughter is going out with a non-Jew”, they told her. She tore her clothing, sat on the floor and started weeping bitterly. Weeping that doesn’t end. Who can understand the sorrow of a mother who so loves her daughter? And as great as the love is, so is the disappointment. This girl is a flower, a successful girl. “I thought, how lucky I am. A beautiful girl, successful in her studies and in society, a nice girl, loves to help, what is she lacking?” shouted the mother painfully.
From the moment she went into National Service, she started to shut down. “Everything’s fine”, she always said. Her parents were not happy when she said she was going to serve in a hospital. They understood that it’s complicated, they explained to her that it’s not fitting. But she was mature; and the relationship with the Arab nurse was not long in coming.
We tried to speak with the girl. She said it was nothing and that she was managing, she asked us not to interfere in her life. To her parents she denied anything was going on, she said people were making up stories about her. “It’s only a work relationship”, she claimed. But when confronted with photos, she could no longer lie. She said it happened, but now it’s over, and asked to change her department there. But that didn’t help. “This is no longer the same girl” said her mother tearfully. “She was such a tzadika”. Her daughter was lying, and the mother lost her trust in her daughter. Her parents’ breakdown was very severe. They are afraid for the fate of their daughter.
In the weekly Torah portion is written: “And Yitzchak trembled exceedingly”. What did Yitzchak see to make him tremble? But our Sages said: “When Ya’akov enters, Paradise enters with him. As said, the scent of my son is as the scent of the field. When Esau enters, Hell enters with him. When Yitzchak saw this – he trembled greatly.”
The breakdown of parents over the fate of their children is terrible. There is nothing more difficult than a child not following in his parents’ footsteps. It hurts when a child puts him/herself at risk.
“And you shall tell your son” – the Torah commands us to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and in so doing, to pass on the relevance of the Jewish people to the mitzvot of the next generation. To remember whence we came and where we’re going; to understand that we are part of the Jewish people, another link in the chain of the generations. An inter-generational transmission of morals and values and feeling part of the Chosen People.
We live in a time of the blurring of personal, national and religious identity. During adolescence when identity is formed, the inter-generational connection is so significant. Risky situations are common at this age. But a relationship with a non-Jew not only tears up the heart. The moment the chain is broken and the child crosses the border, is a difficult and painful moment. “How does one deal with such bad news?” the mother asked me. “How do we see the light, when there’s such great darkness? How can we cope and find an opening of hope?”
Most of the time the relationships don’t last. In the majority of cases, it’s an abusive relationship. That’s not love, but exploitation and distress.
The psychological consequences of loss of identity are severe. There is an age when religion, family and roots are renounced. When a person comes of age, he is thirsty for a family relationship and for belongingness.
Parenting a challenging child is not an easy experience, emotionally charged: Pain, guilt, fear, shame, helplessness. Especially in complicated situations, the parent’s voice is meaningful and important. Even if the child grows distant, he/she needs a parent who will put up a stop sign and navigate the way back. The parent is a compass-conscience that goes with us throughout life.
The journey between the parent and the child undergoes upheavals in life, between closeness and distance. When the child distances him/herself and the dream vanishes, the gap widens. Between the desirable and what is, between fantasy and reality. Sometimes we lose the most important thing between parent and child – compassion. Let’s hold onto compassion and strengthen the relationship between parents and children.