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How to Relate to a Rebel

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

How should we relate to rebellious youth? To a young person who disappoints his parents? Why does Yitzchak Avinu bless Esav despite his regrettable behavior? Rav Chaim Ben Attar, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh did not think Yitzchak’s attitude towards Esav resulted from a mistaken impression or from a confused misunderstanding of his son. Yitzchak Avinu’s vision was deep and he saw the good that, deep down, was present in Esav. Yitzchak thought that this violent hunter could be guided in a positive direction. According to the Ohr HaChaim:

“Yitzchak desired to bless Esav, the evildoer, because he thought blessings would transform Esav, that the evil in him would be turned into good, and that he would mend his ways. It hurts tzadikim when their children do evil and so Yitzchak did all he could for Esav to improve, to bring about the possibility of change.”

Notice the words “possibility of change.” We are accustomed to saying that Yaakov was a tzadik and Esav was evil but, in truth, it was possible to improve this state of affairs. We need to learn from Yitzchak Avinu, who believed that even Esav had the capacity to change. With the proper attitude toward rebellious children, with blessings and prayers, and by drawing them close with love, it will always be possible for change to occur.


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