To my dear daughter, who is currently struggling with a crippling addiction and a life-changing mental-health challenge:

Gifts are funny things. We all love getting them, some of us love giving them, and in general they awaken a sense of happiness and festivity as they are exchanged. Most gifts are given by choice, and that’s what makes them special.

The gifts we choose to give or receive affirm our love and dedication to the other person. We could have simply chosen not to give the gift, or refused to accept it. The transaction is an overt statement of appreciation.

An ordinary gift, whether a piece of paper recognizing the other person’s accomplishments or something more materially substantial like a piece of jewelry, fills the giver who is able to show up and make the other person feel good and appreciated, and fills the receiver who feels noticed and acknowledged. Either way, there is a transactional element. Two willing parties.

But then there is the unexpected gift.

The one you didn’t ask for, the one you didn’t even want, in some cases the one that you prayed you’d never get. Yet here it is. These kinds of gifts don’t feel like gifts. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to recognize and appreciate them as such. And, in fact, there are times when no matter how long we wait or how much introspection we do, they don’t ever end up feeling like gifts.

These gifts are ones that we didn’t know we needed, the ones where someone did us a favor even when we resisted. And these gifts, although they may not seem so at first, often end up being better than any we could’ve asked for.

This exists on a basic level, for example, when your parents vaccinate you against your will, but for your own good. Your mind is simply not developed enough to appreciate that they did you a favor. So, while it felt painful at the time, they will have saved you a lifetime of potentially much more serious agony.

On a more serious level, when you are already a mature adult and you believe that you know what is best for yourself, but your parent (or G‑d) outranks you, and insists, “Notwithstanding what you think, I still know what is best for you.”

I know that you have more growing up to do. I know that you have more expanding to do. I know that you have more mental stretching to do. I know that as capable as you thought you were before, there is more that you can do. I know that you have deeper loving to do. I know that you have a depth of strength, character, love, kindness and compassion that you thought you had mastered. In fact you have even more.

This is a deep gift. It comes from a deep place and requires immense humility to accept it as such, but a gift it is.

The Mishnah says that you can “benefit a person without their permission.”1 Simply put, this means that if I find a good deal for you, that I know you will want, I can buy you that item even without asking you, since I am allowed to benefit a person—you—without express permission.

I think on a much deeper level this is an approach that G‑d takes as well. He decides, at times, that something is good for us even if we vehemently disagree. At that point, we become the petulant child screaming not to get the shot, and He becomes the parent Who knows best.

The element of choice that normally conveys love between giver and receiver is less visible in that kind of gifting, but it is not any less present. In fact, it is there more than any other gift.

We can fight it and resist it, but ultimately, like the shot, when we humbly submit to it, it becomes less painful and easier to swallow.

So my child, this is your gift.

This is our gift.

And when we all recognize that the challenges we are currently facing are actually G‑d’s greatest gift to us, we will find it easier to accept and navigate.

You are our gift. I love you.

The author is a rabbi in North America. This is part of a series of articles chronicling his daughter’s ongoing struggle with addiction and mental illness.