Dear Rabbi Jacobson,
What do you do when due to the irreversible fact that you have not been given these tools to begin with, you have not been able to build that strong and fortifying inner core needed to provide you with the security and confidence to handle life’s ups and downs????
Do you turn to Ha-Shem and ask Him why He permitted that you endure abuse to such extent, that it made you grow up completely deprived of these life-saving tools???
I guess these too are the real questions in life; the kind nobody really has an answer to, right? So far no professional managed to come up with one explanation plausible enough for me to live with! Can you? All I want now is some peace of mind.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for your time.
Hi [name redacted],
Thank you for writing and raising perhaps one of the most important issues of our time. asking a question that MUST be asked—especially on behalf of all the suffering souls that are afraid or were never given the opportunity to ask.
I do not want to jump into a technical response without first making the following disclaimers:
1) The abuse you refer to is intensely personal in nature, and must be addressed with the appropriate sensitivity affording you the dignity you deserve. Email is not nearly adequate as a medium to address such a sensitive issue and I would prefer to discuss it in person – face to face, but the question you ask is of profound importance and I don’t want to delay until we can meet. I will therefore try to share a few thoughts and feelings, as best as I possibly can given the limitations of words as tools and writing as a vehicle.
2) I have not personally endured (thank G-d) the level of abuse that you describe—abuse that I have painfully come to learn has so badly hurt many beautiful souls. I therefore can not truly “put myself in the shoes” of someone who has experienced such agony, nor will I ever be able to truly relate to the associated challenges.
But, I can say — as one Rebbe told a traumatized Chassid who had endured a terrible tragedy: I don’t have answers for you, but I can cry with you…
Your question is one for which we will never have a sufficient answer; nothing we can comprehend could possibly justify “why” terrible things happen to innocent children.
With that being said and my inadequacy acknowledged, what I can share with you are the words of the Torah, what I have heard from spiritual giants who did go through tremendous trauma, and what I have learned from people I have met in the course of my personal journey who have applied Torah’s infinite wisdom to their personal “holocausts” and have come out empowered, becoming more refined in the process.
While nothing could ever explain or justify the abuse of innocent children, this does not mean that they can not learn and develop new tools to rebuild their lives. It is a bedrock fundamental principle in Torah is that G-d gives each person an indispensable soul with a unique mission and provides all the necessary resources to fulfill their personal calling. No matter what obstacles we encounter or what abuse we endure, we do have the resources we need to survive and excel.
There is no such thing as someone that does not have a “strong inner core.” Every one of us has a unique Divine soul, and that can never be taken from us by anyone, including abusive parents—just as it was not given to us by them. Abuse has the ability to tragically damage and even sever the channels that connect our consciousness to our souls (like nerve pathways that can be damaged or blocked), but even then, the soul remains complete and intact, waiting to be accessed. Sometimes we are able to clear the blocks, and sometimes we need to create “bypass surgery”, creating new connecting channels.
For someone whose parents did not provide the proper nurturing and validation to encourage the child’s soul to shine with confidence and be armed with the tools to securely face life’s challenges, the only solution is to connect directly to G-d Himself; to realize that “birth is G-d saying that you matter”, and that you have all the necessary resources to awaken this awareness and to actualize it in your life. (Please read this link about an amazing story with a woman who was severely abused and lost her reason to live).
This is the Torah’s premise — the life-affirming message that each of us was created in the Divine Image, and there is no challenge in life that we cannot overcome.
People who have suffered and are hurt, are as “smoldering embers” waiting to burst into a roaring fire. They have a distinct level of sanctity that places them in a unique relationship with Hashem, affording them opportunities that others simply do not have. Children deprived of a particular faculty who would commonly be called “handicapped”, are referred to by the Torah as “special children,” because they are uniquely blessed with other faculties, tools and resources to compensate for their lack in that particular area.
The greatest challenge on the road toward recovery from abuse is to feel emotionally that this is true, because after all, the deepest effect of abuse is that it strips away personal dignity and self-confidence, often leaving the victim feeling worthless, aimless, and powerless. For this reason, it is vital to hang on with your very life to the life-line called Torah, to allow it to breathe fresh air into your asphyxiated spiritual lungs, and to reconnect your conscious self with your majestic soul. Obviously, all of this is easier said (and typed) than done, and as I mentioned earlier, e-mail is by no means the appropriate medium to fully address such life-defining issues. My hope is that these words will act as a catalyst that can help begin the process of healing.
To be able to truly overcome the challenges you describe and build new “channels” to access the “inner core,” I urge you to speak with a competent, trustworthy and sensitive Torah spiritual authority or friend (I know that’s a mouthful and hard to find), who can help with objective advice and support.
Here are some more links to articles in which I addressed the issue in further detail. Reeh: Child Abuse, The Talking Donkey.
I hope this is helpful, and I welcome any further discussion on the “topic.”
Please see me as a friend, offering my hand to help in any way I can.
Blessings and best wishes.
Rabbi Jacobson’s reply was beautiful and understanding. I am not Jewish but all is in the hands of the heavens. A person’s current life is a response to their previous debts and gratitudes. There are no accidents. According to chinese philosophy the same idea applies. Such as a person getting robbed, it means they have to be robbed for whatever the reason, a debt to be paid or a blessing for some later atonements. I am not here to make light of anyone’s situations. Me , myself come from a war torn era, and while on the run, i was malnurished as an infant and still survive to see the light of day. And many more miracles happened before we were in a safe country.. Only God can guarantee such blessings.
Sorry , forgot to add . In conclusion i think it is what you decide to do with your life is Key. To forget and move on or dwell and be stuck. Life is short so make the best of it.