May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

At the beginning of my career I was a rebbe in a yeshiva high school. I remember David approaching me at the morning break and asking me if we could talk during lunch. It was no surprise, as parent-teacher conferences were only a few days away and a number of students were nervous about my meeting their parents. Speaking with a teacher was a healthy and mature way, in my opinion, for students to prepare themselves for the outcome of these meetings. The meeting with David, however, shook me to my core and I still remember my disbelief at what he told me. David began our meeting by saying that he was convinced that I wouldn’t believe him, but urged me that I really should. He said that what he was going to tell me would change the way I thought of him forever. I couldn’t imagine what kind of confession I was about to hear. I quickly contemplated worst possible scenarios and awaited with nervous anticipation for the “big news” to leave his lips. “Rabbi, it’s about my parents. They hate me.” I was dumbfounded; I couldn’t believe what I had heard. “Ask them,” he said. I tried to be inquisitive about why he felt the way he did and assured him that I would indeed bring it up with his parents as per his request.

When I met with his parents a few days later, they brought up the subject before I could even say good evening. They insisted that they try to show David a great deal of love, care, and support, but that he was convinced that they hated him. Apparently David felt that he was a disappointment to his parents on some level, which they explained was the furthest from the truth. I ended the meeting by assuring them that I was happy to help in any way possible. David ended up having a great year, and when he graduated a few years later, I couldn’t help but think about our lunch meeting. I watched David beam with pride as his parents took a picture with him at graduation. Adolescents go through different stages in their development as their emotions often take different directions over the years. As adults, we too continue to develop on an emotional level, and our interpersonal relationships may experience similar struggles based on our internal struggles, feelings and our interactions with others.

The pasuk tells us in Parshat Vayetzei that Hashem saw that Leah was hated, and as a result He listened to her and opened her womb. The words are striking! Is it possible that Yaakov our forefather hated his wife Leah? Apparent to all was the fact that Rachel was Yaakov’s first love, but to say that Leah was hated, is that really possible? Rav Bunim of Peshis’cha has a magnificent insight into human emotions. He explains that Hashem saw that Leah hated herself, since she held herself to a very high standard as a righteous women. Her reaction to Yaakov’s endearment for her sister Rachel was to feel negatively about herself. This was not the first time that Leah felt badly about herself. The Torah describes Leah’s eyes as being droopy. Rashi explains that this was because she was always crying since she assumed that she was going to marry Esav as they both were the oldest. Leah faced a number of difficult emotional challenges in her life that are familiar to many of us. At times we are very critical of ourselves when in reality we should not be. At several points in the parsha, Leah expresses joy at the birth of her children. We all have something in life that should make us celebrate at the right moment. Even during moments of struggle, we must be fair to ourselves and focus on the areas of our lives that make us smile.

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

 Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler is rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange, New Jersey, and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected].

 

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