God’s Way of Tough Love

Yael Eckstein  |  August 15, 2022

Mother looking at her daughter and scolding her.

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. — Deuteronomy 8:5

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Eikev, which means “therefore” or “heel,” from Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25.

On a Shabbat afternoon a few weeks ago, I was out for a walk with my son. We were walking through a park in the neighborhood when we heard a woman yelling. She was berating her young son for misbehaving on the playground. From the sound of things, it seemed that the little boy had been fighting with another boy.

“That poor mother,” I said. “Look what she has to deal with on a beautiful Shabbat afternoon.” “How do you know she’s the boy’s mother?” my son asked. I was stunned by the question. But then I realized the deeper lesson in what was to me so obvious.

“Of course, she’s his mother,” I answered. “If she wasn’t his mother, she wouldn’t be so upset at him. You see all the other adults in the park? You know why they aren’t also yelling at him? Because they aren’t his mother or father.”

God’s Way of Tough Love

As soon as I said it, I realized that the same is true of our relationship with God. We see this lesson in this week’s Torah portion, when we read, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you” (Deuteronomy 8:3-5).

For too many people, struggles and trials cause a weakening of faith. Moses told the children of Israel that thinking this way is a misunderstanding of God’s providence over the lives of those He loves. Moses reminded them that not only their trials, but also their sustenance, comes from God. The same God who caused them to struggle also fed and clothed them for forty years. It’s God’s way of tough love.

This has been the Jewish attitude throughout all the centuries of suffering in our history. Jewish tradition has always taught that God sends us through difficult times so that we will grow from the experience. He is our father. He disciplines us because He loves us.

Your Turn:

Have you experienced struggle in your life? Remember that God is your Heavenly Father and that He disciplines you with tough love!