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“I am with him in distress” (Psalm 91:15)// Anat Gopstein

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Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the Shabbat weekly Gilui Da’at:

“I am with him in distress” (Psalm 91:15)

They sat across from me, crying and hurting. They didn’t know how to cope with the hard blow that landed on them.

Their daughter, a teenage girl, a good, beloved girl, a girl who’s their whole world. They, who so believed in her and believed what she said. She did something that just shouldn’t be done. Now, in the corona period there’s no school, so she’s studying via the cellphone. They gave her a pelephone and trusted her; they thought she was studying, speaking with friends from her class. They were so happy she was busy, sitting at home, not going out, not traipsing around outside.

She studied all day, but then one day, when the girl was in her room, she was speaking on the speakerphone; she thought nobody was home. She was so busy and didn’t hear her mother come home. The door to her room was slightly open, and the mother approached the room – and then she heard with whom her daughter was speaking and the content of the conversation…

A conference call between their daughter and her friends – with Arabs. A shallow and coarse conversation. The mother couldn’t believe it and didn’t understand, what happened to her tzadika of a daughter?

She entered the room, and the daughter, when she saw her mother, panicked and cut off the call. The shocked mother sat down next to the girl and started to cry. She just couldn’t bear the thought of her righteous daughter’s behavior. The daughter started to cry; she didn’t understand what was happening to her and how she rolled into this situation: Mother, I ask for your forgiveness. I don’t know how this happened, I got carried away.

The mother was not capable of speaking; she took the phone and left the room. When the father came home, he heard the bitter news and broke down. He didn’t understand what was happening to his tzadika of a girl; he invested so much in his kids’ education, and this is the result?! Dear G-d, this test is too hard, but he didn’t give up. He sat with the girl, wanted to understand how this happened. The girl said that she and her friends talk until the wee hours of the night with Arabs. They have never met, athough they did get obscene suggestions. It started with curiosity, with difficulty saying ‘no’ or setting clear limits.

The parents sat with me and wanted to know how to cope with the difficulty and give a response to the girl’s needs. How to develop an open and optimal dialogue with the girl, incisive dialogue padded with love, about limits and about the trust that has been damaged. A dialogue about a complicated age, about protection and how to maintain a healthy and beneficial relationship with the adolescent girl.

Meeting with the parents in a time of need is shaky and heartbreaking. To be with the parents in trouble and pain and disappointment in the face of harsh reality. The prayer of every parent: “And privilege me to raise wise children and grandchildren who love and fear G-d”, suddenly looks like a dream that has shattered and broken into fragments. Tremendous mental/spiritual strength is needed to pick up the pieces, to pick oneself up and return to a position of leadership and parental authority.