You’re Good, What You Did Wasn’t (Vayishlach)

“Cursed is their anger..” He only rebuked their display of anger, not them. (Rashi on Genesis 49:6)

Teenagers Levi and Shimon, avenging their sister’s disgrace, deceive and destroy an entire city and its inhabitants. Jacob hears and does not approve. Yet, he only reproves them for their display of anger. He says it was wrong, uncalled for and damaging . He does not say that they are violent, angry or impulsive. He does not question who they are as people or think that maybe there is something essentially wrong with them.  He does not retract his love. After all, his love is unconditional, and he will not say or do anything that would imply otherwise. Yet, he is their father and it is his job to correct them for their misbehavior. So, he does.

A useful parenting mantra to keep in mind when our older children err is: “You’re good, but what you did (in this case) was not. What can you learn from this experience and what can you do if this happens again?”