The Blessing of a Parent’s Rebuke

Yael Eckstein  |  December 16, 2021

“Simeon and Levi are brothers
    — their swordsare weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
    let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
    and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.”
— Genesis 49:5-6

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayechi, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 47:28–50:26.

I was in the mall with my son the other day. In the food court there was a boy, probably around 10 or 11 years old, who was being, shall we say, a bit rowdy. When he started throwing food on the floor, the child’s mother finally intervened. She dragged him by the hand over to a mall employee who was pushing a cart with cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, and a trash can. The mother borrowed some paper towels and a cleaning rag from the cart and proceeded to stand over her son as he cleaned up the mess he had made.

As my son and I watched this scene, my son said to me, “Wow. That mom is so angry! Look what she made him do!” “You know why she did that?” I answered. “You know why she dragged him screaming to the cleaning cart and then stood over him while he cleaned up his mess? She did it because she loves her son. That’s why she’s so upset at him. She loves him.”

The Hebrew word for parent, horeh, comes from the root horah, which means “to teach.” A parent’s job is to teach our children. This is how we show our love for them. And sometimes that love must come in the form of rebuke. This is part of how we teach our children to be the best people they can be. That is the blessing of a parent’s rebuke.

A Parent’s Rebuke

In this week’s Torah portion, we see Jacob speaking to his sons on his deathbed. Although the Bible says that he blessed each of them (Genesis 49:28), a few of the “blessings” he gave them don’t seem like blessings at all. In fact, his blessings sounded more like rebukes.

For example, Jacob told Reuben that he would not rise to leadership because he had defiled his father’s bed. He then rebuked Simeon and Levi for their violent attack against the people of Shechem. These harsh words have led many commentaries to wonder why the Bible calls this a blessing.

But the answer is simple. Rebuke is a blessing. Jacob’s stern message to his sons, like that mother in the mall, was the blessing of a parent’s rebuke because there is no one better than a parent to teach their children what they need to do to repair what they have done and become the best they can be.

Your Turn:

Have you ever received tough love from God, our loving Father in heaven? Think back to lessons you have learned and thank God for His love.

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