Dear Rabbi:

I have tried doctors, hypnosis, medication, meditation, yoga, extreme sports . . . you name it—but nothing has worked. And it’s ruining my life.

I’m the youngest of three. As soon as I started becoming independent, I began to fight with my mother. I wanted to go to college at ——; she said it was too far. I finally succumbed and attended ——, but she never came to see me there anyway. I wanted to study economics; she said to study history. It goes on and on. My father is passive when it comes to the situation, and never sticks up for me.

While I have had some problems in my life, I am a loving husband and a lawyer. My life is nothing to be ashamed of, in my opinion. But according to my mother, I married the wrong woman, bought the wrong house and work for the wrong firm.

My parents scream at me on the phone, or slam the phone down—but not before saying very hurtful things. It got to the point that my wife and I moved to another state (partly to get away from my parents), and have not spoken to either parent in months.

Now we are expecting a great joy, the birth of our son. One part of me wants my parents to share in this miracle. The other part of me absolutely knows that every time my wife and I are around my parents, there is sadness and hurt.

She is my mother, the source of my life. It says in the Torah to 1) respect your parents, 2) honor your wife above all others, 3) be the protector of your family, and 4) everyone is G‑d’s child and deserves to be happy. I don’t know what to do. I am very desperate for a solution.


I wish I had advice. But most of us are in the same boat—some more, some less. If it’s not the mother, it’s the mother-in-law, father, father-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, etc.

There are challenges of life that we overcome, and there are challenges we just learn to cope with. They are part of the essential makeup of life. Like the challenge of independence from parents. “Therefore,” proclaimed the first human being upon his marriage, “a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” For some, the separation comes easy; for others, it is a major struggle of life.

Solution? Who says there is one? I know of only one solution to life, and most of us would rather delay that one as much as possible.

But try this: Look forward instead of backward. Ask yourself: Am I being a better father to my children than my parents were to me? Will I avoid repeating their mistakes? If in any way you can answer “yes,” then you are making a tikkun (correction) for your parents. They are the greatest beneficiaries.

As for dealing with your mother, join the rest of us in following the example of Issachar: “He saw that peace was good . . . so he put up with carrying the load.” Put up with what you can. Let things pass—they always do. And learn to forget those things that have no significance for the future. Such as quarrels. Simply pretend they never happened. And get on with life.

One more point: In that great book of wise counsel, the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman gives a sparkling jewel of advice for dealing with people close to you when their dastardly ways have brought you to despise them: Have compassion. Stand a little above. Take some time to empathize with the psychological state of this person. The more you contemplate this, the more the angst inside will heal. And, mysterious as it may sound, this person will also be affected by your change of emotion.

Most of these personalities are simply trying to make others feel the way they feel inside. They want empathy. They say, “Why suffer this sense of persecution alone, when I can make others join me?”

Which means two things: First of all, that you can know how this person feels inside from the way he or she is making you feel.

Secondly, if you will simply show recognition and sympathy for the pain going on inside, a lot of it will be healed.

That’s not a cure, or a solution. Life will go on. But it can go a long way in making everyone’s life easier.