Angry Atmosphere at Home – Rebbetzin Heller Advises

14 07 2010

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

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Question:I find it hard to come close to Hashem due to the angry atmosphere in my home. I once heard from a Rabbi that someone who doesn’t have a good relationship with his parents can’t have a real connection with Hashem. What should I do?

Answer:
I know many spiritually outstanding people who have terrible relationships with their parents. When I was growing up, the vast majority of my classmates were children of Holocaust survivors. What we would call today dysfunctional, was perfectly normal then.  Many parents were neurotic, overly protective, unrefined, and not particularly learned. There was a huge gap between parents and the children even in the best of families, because of the parents’ experiences during the war. Even if there was love, communication was very difficult. Yet these children turned out to be wonderful people.

It seems to me that somewhere along the line, our teachers became very important to us as role models. Even thought they too were European survivors, they were incredible people who made an indelible impression on us. In addition, our learning nurtured our  yirat shamayim and provided us with a sense of where Hashem fit into the picture.

What I suspect your Rabbi was alluding to is that there are people who don’t feel safe with their parents. For them the word avinu does not evoke feelings of warmth and emotional stability. This would apply to orphans too.  Not having the security of good parenting creates an empty space. But it doesn’t have to lead away from Hashem, it can lead to Him. Indeed, the prophetess Ester lost her mother at birth. The gaping hole within her took her to dveikut  b’Hashem.
If there is a great deal of anger in the home and your parents are yelling at each other, your role is to stay out of it. The only life you can live is your own. If the yelling is at you, you have to continually ask yourself, “Is it true?” If it’s not, don’t take it in and don’t let it chip away at your self-esteem. Instead, let it take you to a place where you recognize your parents’ frailty, which will cause you to feel compassion for them. Commit yourself to a better life. Get yourself some experiential mentors.  You need to see positive role modeling so that you can incorporate it into your own future home. When you hear an angry remark, ask yourself, “How would I say it? What’s a better way to respond?”  Don’t do this to disparage your parents, but to provide yourself with alternatives.  It is possible to build a genuine connection with Hashem even if your parental relationship is difficult. It will just take a lot more effort and self-work on your part to make it happen.

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