Unconditional Love: A Profound Perspective
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Excerpt from E-Book
ASPECTS OF AN EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIP: A BIBLICAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE
A PROFOUND PERSPECTIVE
It's not easy to love an unlovable child. Then again, that child is probably the one who needs love most.
I heard this comment many years ago, and I am unaware as to its source. Nor am I certain about the exact wording. Needless to say, I have shared it with many parents who, admittedly, often feel a lack of love for their challenging children.
In response to this statement, my observation was nothing other than the human quality at work. Upon hearing the first part of the adage, the response was almost always an exuberant and energetic tone of validation, something along the lines of, "Boy, can I vouch for that! And then a qualifying comment would usually follow: "How can you love a child whose behavior is abhorrent, who's almost always non-compliant and who openly rebels against the family's values and religious life?" Then, in response to the final part of the phrase, the facial expression usually would imply an almost certain look of shame and guilt while the voice would shift to a tone of resignation and a resounding "Yes, I know."
Loving one's child is a topic that is clearly expressed in the Book of Genesis, in the segment, Toldot: "Vaye-ehav Yitzchok et Esov ki tzayid b'fiv v'Rivkah ohevet et Yaakov – And Isaac loved Esau for he was also a hunter with his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob) (25:28)."
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (19th century leading German Rabbi), in his commentary on the Torah, discusses parental love with regard to this verse. He teaches us that both parents should be on the same page insofar as educating their children and having the same feelings of love for all of them, including a child who is "not good". In fact, Rabbi Hirsch adds that such a child requires even more love than one who is
physically weak or ill.
Rabbi Hirsch mentions that Isaac's sympathies toward Esau and Rebecca's expressed love toward Jacob can easily be explained by the attraction of opposites. He continues to say that although these sympathies are explainable, nevertheless, parents should not allow such hidden feelings to influence them in making any difference in their love toward their children.
Based on Rabbi Hirsch's commentary, the words of the text appear to imply parental favoritism. That being the case, why would the Torah present to us such a stumbling block? Then again, there is a different way to explain these words with a perspective that
does not necessarily reflect parental favoritism. And for that, we must first define the term "love" with all of its ramifications.
Love – or better yet – unconditional love can be defined as follows: I love my child without any conditions attached. I love my child because s/he was given to me by G-d and therefore is worthy of my love. And as a responsible parent, I will do whatever I must and what I am able to do within my capacity, abilities, capabilities and talents in order to promote my child's physical, emotional and spiritual healthy and productive development.
Now that unconditional love has been defined, we can explain Rebecca's "love" of Jacob and Isaac's "love" of Esau in a positive way that does not negate the love each parent might have toward the other child. The focus of this perspective, then, is about the attraction each has to that particular child and for a very specific reason.
This appeal can be explained in the following way: "What is it about me, Rebecca, that is special, that makes me different from Isaac? What quality, talent or ability do I possess which is unique to me, which only I can impart to this child that will help him achieve success in his future?" And the same question can be applied when examining Isaac's relationship to Esau.
So what are those unique qualities that characterized and highlighted each of these parents? Jacob was an ish tam yoshev ohalim -- a complete man who dwelled in the tents. This means he excelled in his Torah learning and was spiritually connected to Hashem. However, he lacked street smarts. And because Jacob was so totally engrossed in and with spirituality, Rebecca understood he would not know how to deal with the likes of Esau or Laban, which meant he would require specific skills in order to cope with his future.
Who best could teach him these skills if none other than his mother? Rebecca, a woman who was reared in a household where deception was the order of the day, had proficiency in that area. And the proof was in her chicanery. After all, it was Rebecca who suggested to Jacob how he could acquire his father's blessing. Isaac, on the other hand, had little or nothing to offer Jacob on that particular subject.
What about Esau? Obviously, he didn't require his mother's unique education and support. Esau was a wild man of the woods, and he was an expert in deception. Who knows; perhaps he held an illustrious position as professor in the local academy where he taught courses on, "Everything you Wanted to Know About Deception and Thievery," levels 1- 10. However, Esau was sorely lacking in the area of spirituality. That was right up Isaac's alley. Not only was the subject matter a specialty of Isaac's (being a near sacrifice certainly earned him a high level of spirituality), but Isaac also had an excellent role model to emulate.
The setting for his methodology was Abraham and Sara's home, considered to be a miniature Holy Temple, one that comprised high levels of lovingkindness and compassion toward everyone. It was a household where the traits of patience and persistence were consistently employed, especially toward the wayward child, Ishmael. These attributes were the foundation of Isaac's upbringing, and they were unique to him.
As this perspective demonstrates, Rebecca and Isaac each had a special quality that helped meet the need of each child, respectively. And it was this uniqueness that was reflected in their (respective) unconditional love. With this point of view in mind, I offer you the following thoughts to
contemplate. Ask yourself these two self-reflective questions:
- What quality, talent, knowledge or experience do I possess that is special, unique and perhaps different than that which my spouse possesses – which only I can offer to a particular child who might require that specific support – as a way to help him/her achieve potential success in his/her future?
- What unique needs does my child require for his/her future potential success that – in order to meet those needs – "I" must acquire knowledge, improve upon or enhance in "myself?"
As you uncover these unique qualities in yourself, you may discover you possess
a depth of unconditional love that perhaps you never knew existed before.