Dad, will I ever be a disappointment to you? This is a question that my daughter asked me a few years ago. In fact, I was not ready for it and instinctively answered her: “Sweetie, you’ll never be a disappointment to me, I’m proud of you and I love you. I will honor any choice you make even if I do not agree with it. I always love you and will always be proud of you, completely and unconditionally. “
In this week’s Parsha Yaakov blesses his sons before his death, but it seems as some of his sons have been a disappointment to him. Shimon and Levi seem to receive a curse, not a blessing, for the massacre they committed against the people of Shechem: “Simeon and Levi are a pair; Their weapons are tools of lawlessness. Let not my person be included in their council; Let not my being be counted in their assembly. For when angry they slay men, And when pleased they maim oxen. Cursed be their anger so fierce, And their wrath so relentless. I will divide them in Jacob, Scatter them in Israel.”
Apparently, Yaakov says that they are the greatest disappointment of his life. Is that a blessing? It sounds like a harsh curse!? I saw a wonderful explanation of Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrahi. In botany, there are two methods to upgrade a tree – grafting (הרכבה) and layering (הברכה). “Harkavah” (grafting) utilizes resources from the outside, from the branch of another tree. The “Havracha” (layering), on the other hand, comes from the tree itself – by bending a branch from the tree over and covering it with earth, so as to strike new roots. In all our evil traits lies a good trait and in every weakness lies a lot of strength. Havracha (layering) comes from the word Bracha (blessing).
Those who truly love us can, with the help of great compassion, illuminate the black spots and turn them into glowing stars (as in the story of Chanaleh and Her Shabbat dress). This is the profound meaning of Yaakov’s blessing. His words to Shimon and Levi were included with the blessings to the other brothers so that we would not be mistaken, G-d forbid, and would think that this was a curse. Shimon and Levi were not a disappointment, rather loved like everyone else. Yaakov understood what caused their downfall, and with much love and compassion he comments to them about the danger of their negative qualities and enlightens them on how to re-plant these qualities in a way that will be re-created as positive forces – ” I will divide them in Jacob, Scatter them in Israel “. Not for nothing, in the next book Sefer Shemot, the Tribe of Levi became the leading tribe of the people of Israel.
It is important to criticize, but not from a place of judgment, accusation, anger, or resentment. Only criticism that comes from a place of unconditional love, positive energy, equanimity, empathy, and endless compassion, only this sort of criticism can give rise to something positive and fruitful. Criticism that comes with anger and judgment dwarfs the person and instills in him/her a feeling that he/she is not enough. Not adequate.Not good enough.Not successful enough. In short, a disappointment!
Nothing hurts more than hearing a person who is supposed to love you saying – “You are a disappointment!!”
A blessing can be a compliment.
A blessing can be an encouragement.
A blessing can be empowerment.
However, the most powerful blessing is a criticism that comes with endless love and compassion. Such a blessing may give one courage to reveal new powers and resilience, more than any other blessing. Such were the blessings of Yaakov.
Who in your life is your “blessed”?
Who will always love you unconditionally without any reservations?
Who will never see you as a disappointment?
Once you find out who around you fits into this category, know that these are the people who will empower you more than anyone else. Be open to accept from these people their feedback and criticism along with their love, empathy, and compassion. This is an authentic blessing.
“When we’re looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, able to bend, and, most of all, we need someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles. We need to honor our struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it. When we’re looking for compassion, it’s about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue”
(The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown)