GOOD MORNING! In this week's Torah portion, Toldos, the Torah tells us that Yitzhak and Rivka (Isaac and Rebecca) were deeply upset over Esau marrying outside of the faith. For thousands of years Jewish parents have wanted their children to marry Jews and to be a link in the Jewish future.
To help parents communicate with their children why they want them to marry Jews, I wrote How to Prevent an Intermarriage -- a guide for parents to prevent broken hearts (you can download the whole book for free or order a hard copy at my website, PreventIntermarriage.com -- or buy it at your local Jewish bookstore). It is a practical guide for parents whose child has presented them with his/her decision to marry a non-Jew -- and the parents are at a loss to explain why they feel so deeply against the marriage. It also is a guide to help parents raise their children so that they will want to marry within the faith.
We often don't even realize what it is that we value or why -- until we're about to lose it. In 1967 before the Six Day War, it looked liked Israel was going to be destroyed. Virtually the whole world was against Israel, the Arab nations were poised to invade, the U.N. was doing nothing -- and Jews were coming out of the woodwork to donate large amounts of money to help Israel. These were Jews that had no connection to the Jewish community, some of whom had even changed their names and had no identification with being Jewish. Why? Because all of a sudden with Israel about to be destroyed they realized that they cared, that it mattered, that they were part of the Jewish people.
Likewise with parents confronted with their child going out with or planning to marry a non-Jew. They care and they care deeply. For many, they can't explain what is so precious about being Jewish or part of the Jewish people, but they know somewhere deep within that they wanted their children to continue as part of our heritage.
However, parents are often frozen and unable to respond. Perhaps they haven't been the best role model for leading a Jewish life. Perhaps they aren't that connected with things Jewish -- a synagogue, a JCC, the Federation. Perhaps they don't know what to say. Perhaps they don't even know why they care. It's a lot easier to say "oy vay" under your breath, smile and then respond to all who ask, "As long as they're happy."
Parents often don't want to confront the issues because they don't want to upset the relationship with their child or they don't know what to say about the problems facing intermarried couples regarding underlying differences, raising children and religious differences. It is a great kindness to our children if we can help them have a happy marriage and avoid the pitfalls that lead to divorce. There are so many more difficulties facing intermarried couples which engenders a higher divorce rate. We need information to share and discuss with our children.
How to Prevent an Intermarriage helps parents answer questions and know what to say -- why they care, why they're not hypocrites -- even if at this late stage they express their concerns and want their child to reconsider plans to get married. The book provides information, communication skills, questions to ask about problems and issues that occur in intermarriages and provided articulate answers. It includes case histories of parents who were successful in getting their children to reconsider as well as case histories of the problems facing mixed marriages. It explains the religious as well as historical reasons against intermarriage.
Being a parent is about responsibility and helping our children be the best they can and make the best choices they can. It means taking the tough road and talking with our children about issues that really matter. (At very minimum, at least giving Doron Kornbluth's book Why Marry Jewish? which helps them be aware of the issues that will face them in an intermarriage.)
If intermarriage is something that you might one day have to face with your children, then you might want to get a copy of "How to Prevent an Intermarriage -- a guide for parents to prevent broken hearts." And hopefully you won't have the pain experienced by Yitzhak and Rivka over your child marrying outside of the faith!
Torah Portion of the Week
Rivka (Rebecca) gives birth to Esav (Esau) and Ya'akov (Jacob). Esav sells the birthright to Ya'akov for a bowl of lentil soup. Yitzhak (Isaac) sojourns in Gerar with Avimelech, king of the Philistines. Esav marries two Hittite women bringing great pain to his parents (because they weren't of the fold).
Ya'akov impersonates Esav on the counsel of his mother in order to receive the blessing for the oldest son by his blind father, Yitzhak. Esav, angry because of his brother's deception which caused him to lose the firstborn blessings, plans to kill Ya'akov, so Ya'akov flees to his uncle Lavan (Laban) in Padan Aram -- on the advice of his parents. They also advise him to marry Lavan's daughter.
Esav understands that his Canaanite wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael (Ishmael).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
When Yitzhak found out that he gave the blessings to Ya'akov and not to Esau as he thought he had, the Torah tells us:
"Yitzhak trembled greatly" (Genesis 27:33).
Why did Yitzhak tremble so much?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the late Rosh HaYeshiva of Mir, cited the Sages who stated that Yitzhak experienced greater fear and anxiety at this moment than he did at the akaidah, when he was brought up as a sacrifice by his father, Avraham. There he was bound and ready to be killed with a sharp blade. From here we see, said Rav Chaim, that the realization that one made a mistake is the greatest of pains. This was not a one time mistake. Rather, Yitzhak realized that all the years he thought Esau was more deserving than Ya'akov he was in error. The anxiety experienced in the awareness of error is a powerfully painful emotion.
This is important to keep in mind when you are trying to point out to someone his faults and mistakes. You might think, "It is so obvious that this person is wrong. As soon as I tell it to him he should admit it." We see this often times when parents reprimand their kids. Perhaps you have witnessed this scene (either as a parent and/or a child): A parent walks into a teenager's room, blow his top about the messiness of the room, the irresponsibility of the child, the impossibility of finding anything, the health hazards and the lack of consideration for others -- and expects his child to say, "Gee, Dad, I never thought of that before; thank you for pointing it out. I am definitely going to change!" When that doesn't happen, the parent often figures that maybe next time if he yells just a little bit louder, the message will get through. (Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results.)
However, the reality is that admitting a mistake can be extremely painful. For this reason there is a strong tendency for people to deny their mistakes. If you sincerely want to help someone improve, it is crucial to be as tactful as possible. Start out by saying, "It seems to me..." or "I might be mistaken, but perhaps..." The more sensitive you are to the feelings of the person you are trying to help, the more effective you will be.
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 16
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
I never tried quitting,
and I never quit trying
-- Dolly Parton
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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