WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS SAY?
“We have come here, to this world, to please the Divine, and not the neighbor”
Written By: Harav Dan Tiomkin
Translated to English By: Kol Haneshamot
I was privileged to conduct many workshops with Rabbi Uri Zohar Shlita, on the subject of adolescent education. The rabbi always strengthens the idea that parents should approach their children with love, accepting the children as they are, and only this way one can be mekarev (bring them closer)them. In general, at some point, someone from the audience will always ask: "What about the neighbors?" "What will they say?" “What will they think?” “This will ruin the matchmaking opportunities for the other siblings”. The rabbi always answered with a short sentence: "We came here, to this world, to please Hashem, and not the neighbor.” I will try to interpret and expand on his words a little.
Man is a social creature by nature and is greatly influenced by society. That's a fact. There are extreme challenging situations in life, in which our will to maintain a social image encourages us to make choices. However, sometimes social pressures contradict our ability to perform the will of Hashem. One then has to stop and prioritize, which of the options is more important. That is unfortunately not an easy task. Do parents choose to do Hashems will, that in the case of struggling youth at risk, means behaving lovingly with our children in order to create a relationship that will bring future progress , or to fear a negative image, which may cause us to lose the child.
Without underestimating the difficulty and pain, there is a rule that is always right in life: if one performs the will of Hashem, he does not lose. Even if at the moment the place of study looks more reputable, if it is not suitable for the individual, there is less chance for success. If we strengthen our relationship with our child/ren, in the end also the discomfort from the neighbors will be lessened, because the alternatives will be worse, and can create problems that will intensify rather than disappear.
When discussing shidduchim, I will share how HaRav HaGaon Steinman, Shlita ztl, responded in the following story. The Cohen family had two sons who left the path, and also one daughter, a tzadekes, who when she reached marriageable age, they received an offer from a family in Bnei Brak, whose father is a Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Cohen inquired about the potential shidduch, and after hearing good things about the bachur, they agreed
to move further with the shidduch. The family had a feeling that when the Rosh Yeshiva's family would look into their family and find out about their two sons, they will not want to pursue the proposal. To their great surprise, the Rosh Yeshiva gave the green light, and after a few meetings there was a marriage proposal. At the engagement ceremony, at the end of the evening, Rabbi Cohen approached his future in-laws, the Rosh yeshiva and asked him: "I assume that during the inquiries you found out that we have two sons who have left our path... ". The Rosh Yeshiva replied: "Indeed, we knew about it”. Rabbi Cohen asked him:" And didn't it bother you? " The Rosh Yeshiva then replied: “Honestly, it bothered us a lot, so we went to ask Maran Harav Steinman zt”l what to do, and so he replied: “These days, there are so many families whose children have left the path, this is no longer a reason not to create a shidduch with the family. Rather, I suggest you check carefully if the family is still on good terms with their children who have left the path. If the relationship there is warm and good, it is definitely possible to move forward with the shidduch!” Disconnection is indicative of a problem with such a family, and that is what would have made them lose the shidduch.
To sum it up: we came here to please the Shechinah, and because the approach that is correct with youth at risk requires warmth, acceptance and love, it is impossible to lose from such an approach despite the social unpleasantness. With the help of Hashem, perseverance in the right way, there will be continued blessing and success for the whole family.