Rav Uri Zohar: Tell Your Off the Derech Child, “I Love You”

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Legendary teshuvah activist Rav Uri Zohar recently spoke about a fundamental question facing parents whose children tragically leave the derech: whether to reject them or whether to maintain a warm bond. Rav Zohar was emphatically in favor of the second option, even in extreme circumstances.

“When a child comes home at four in the morning from the disco, give him some cake with a cup of coffee and a note saying, ‘We love you,'” he said.

“This will reassure him that you love him not because he is a tzaddik or because he davens or says brachos, but just because he exists. After he grows up and understands that everything around him is a bluff, he’ll return. Slowly at first, but he’ll be inside, at home, within the community.”

“If we throw a child out of the house chalilah, we deprive him of the chance to return,” he said. “Our job as parents is not to know when he’ll do teshuvah and return to the way of the Avos. Rather, the mitzvah of this generation is to accept with love and mercy those children who will return in the end. For deep within they know the truth. Therefore, in the end, they’ll return to their heavenly Father.”

{Matzav.com Israel News Bureau}

50 COMMENTS

  1. And what about the fact that he is damaging and ruining his other siblings? Avraham avinu was told by HKBH, after Sarah made the suggestion, to kick out Yishmael from the house because he was having a terrible negative affect on Yitzchock. Maaseh avos siman labanim.

    • Your logic is not consistent. Here’s the simple response:

      1) The “damaging and ruining” of siblings is a sofek. The total rejection of the child is a vadai. One does not have the option of destroying one child for sure because of a question about another.

      2) Sarah’s suggestion was logical, but Avraham did not follow it. He knew that he had no such option. It was only upon direct instruction from HKBH that he took the action. When one has such direct revelation about what HKBH wants, such rash behaviors can be done. Until then, one does not have such authority.

      Rabbi Zohar is 100% correct.

      Throwing out a child is a tragic act that has finality. Such ultimate rejection is nearly impossible to heal. When we look for the derachim of Gedolei Yisroel, we are more likely to see those who prevented such rejections from occurring. There are famous stories of Gedolim who forbade expelling talmidim from yeshiva. In one case, the permission was granted, but the Gadol undertook to learn with this talmid as a chavrusa, much to the chagrin of the Rosh Yeshiva that expected to cast the talmid to the streets.

    • So tell me. if you are gonna make up things from the avos. Are you allowed to marry two sisters? Seriously people investigate your logic more thoroughly.

  2. To tipush #3:

    Are you comparing what the Shevatim did to Yosef, to what HKBH himself COMMANDED Avraham Avinu to do?!

  3. There are many teens ,who ought to pushed with tough love

    they’ll smirk behind your backs at your tolerance

    (Of course it would be alot ,lot easier if we would have a form of ‘rumspringa’ for teenagers
    But our religion ,on the contrary,
    obviously holds the opposite.Hence Ben Sorer U’moreh)

    Only where there is no way out there is utter devotion; and devotion is the touchstone of every truth in the world
    [translated]

    • If by “tough love” you mean rejecting your child, that is, kicking your child to the curb so they can experience homelessness, poverty, danger, violence, and high suicide rates, you should not be a parent.

      • Who told you that’s what “tough love” means?

        p.s.What would you have told to parents who brought their son for Sorer U’moreh?

  4. Today you have a close relative to OTD.
    This group goes by various names, tuna beigels, with it, heimish, yoelis, wana bes. If you would ask them they consider themselves frum but for some its a slippery slope to OTD

  5. Avraham didn’t do it until Hashem told him to listen to Sarah. Vais dich ois you need a nevuah in order to take such a drastic measure.

  6. I would assume Rabbi Zohar isn’t referring to a case when the OTD child is damging siblings.

    In such a case the child should be told “I love you very much but I love Hashem even more so I can’t have you remain in my house and turn my (other) children away from him”

    • In europe non religious and religious shared a single roof. Apparently nowadays people are holier than the European jews they try to imitate!

    • Tell a child that, and what they hear is, “I don’t care about you at all. All that matters to me is that my children do what I and the community expect them to do.”

      • It is not my fault if an OTD child wants to read into what I’m saying something I never said or meant.

        Yes. I know it is a common OTD and blog party line that “All that matters to me is that my children do what I and the community expect them to do” But no I want them go in the Derech H’Torah for their sake and I don’t give a hoot about what motives the blog world says I have for doing so. Nor do I feel any responsibility if a OTD child wants to twist what I said beyond recognition.

  7. how does one understand the shulchan aruch ” haporek ol .. ain anu misavelim ela smeichim tough language why is a teen from a normal frum home thats not abusive and dysfunctional not a porek ol midarchei avosav

  8. Off the derech person weighing in – we don’t all leave tragically. Some leave happily. Most of us won’t return, no matter how much love we’re shown. Show your child love because they’re your child. The advantage is that you’ll have a relationship with your child, that your child feels loved. That should be enough, as a parent.

    • On the contrary, I have every right to weigh in, having been on the receiving end of the appalling treatment to which we are subjected as an absolute standard. In defence of the frum community, many people have not in fact rejected me, and we continue to have healthy happy relationships despite our differences.

      All I wanted to point out was that OTD kids should be accepted and loved because every kid deserves acceptance and love, not because they might eventually return. Plenty of people wouldn’t.

      • of course ,you’ll say thus

        Virtually everyone has to rationalize their modus vivendi to themselves and loudly too,or else they’ll end up in an Institution (or be suicidal)

        If your going off is/was a disguised cop out for unanswered struggles or questions,

        whose fault is that ,other than your own?

        Blame the schools?! Or somehow it’s the community’s fault?! Somebody else ?!

        That is what you’re in this world for!

        אִם תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה כַכָּסֶף

        Most people who complain simply desire for all to be handed them on silver platter

        Or is it an uncontrollable appetite for hedonism?

        “appalling treatment”

        How many countless decent, ehrliche ,religious people are walking around who suffered worse than anything your ilk may have ?

  9. To those who say Shma every day?

    Do we mean it? Do our children really feel that we mean it?

    That there are things we cherish even more than them?

  10. RashI says that yishmae’ls case required Sarah to be a nevuah,
    Avraham avinu did not hold that throwing him out was the right thing to do. Nomally it wouldn’t have been, even if it would have effected the sibling yitzchok.
    Maaseh avos simian labonim.

  11. I personally almost went OTD myself from all the endless OTD proselytizing even on “frum” sites. One of the major factors that convinced me not to was Rabbi Zohars book “Waking Up Jewish” Although it is out of print I strongly recommend those who have doubts reading it. And think it over. (He stresses that no one will be convinced just by reading his book)

    Although they usually deny it, the OTD crowd very much wants validation and acceptance from the Frum crowd.You have to be careful NOT to give it to them.Their behavior is not acceptable!!! No matter what they threaten with you saying that.

    Only respond to this post the same way you would respond to a OTD person.

      • You *need us* to want validation from you. Otherwise you might be in danger of realising that people who are not frum lead happy and successful lives, and that would contradict the narrative on which you have built your own.

        • “happy and successful lives, and that would contradict the narrative ”

          And how old are you now?

          So all ivy league ba’alei t’shuvah who rejected what you’re aimlessly running after were wrong?

          • And what about all the jews who turned towards the haskalah who came from choshovah familys. This can work both ways. Be thorough in you logic. otherwise you build up walls that can be pushed over with a gentle breeze.

        • Um. No I don’t. I’m well aware that the OTD crowd has an OCD like tendency to obsess about what is wrong with the frum why world, why they don’t aren’t frum any more etc. etc. etc. And I’ve long ago learned to tune it all out.

          But I will acknowledge that yes I do believe the reason for their OCD in this area is a reflection of their inner turmoil about their decisions.To put it nicely and mildly.

  12. Koheles says: kesef yaaneh es hakol.
    In today’s day and age, apparently: “love” yaaneh es hakol.
    A person can be oiver kol davar issur shebatorah, and the response from the grosser experts always is: L O V E. There is no more the concept of schar vi’oinesh. There is no more din vicheshbon. Interesting.
    Love love love love love love love love. What the hell does love mean? With all these so called love birds, we have more OTD’s than ever before. So apparently love ain’t working. Time to try a different approach.

    • Did you ever take time off your busy schedule and spend a hour or two or a week or more with these great kids ??

      Did try compassionately reaching and saying Hello how are you ??

      They are not going off they are being pushed

      • Painting with too broad a brush

        Many or most Teens go off these days,whatever their alibis maybe,because they seem to ‘gain’ more than they ‘lose’ by going off

        Those who come from the most
        upright,decent,
        loving families who they feel their families are ‘losing’ in frum social caste system are pulled to ‘go off’

        Those feel their families and themselves are among the ‘winners’ of the Frum socioreligious caste system [whether deserving or undeserving], rarely will go off

  13. He did not issue an across the board rule, in writing. We don’t even have a video of this.

    If the child is dangerously throwing knives and arrows around the house, he must lovingly and firmly be told that the house is off-limits to this type of behavior. The limits on danger must be lovingly enforced. Does anyone think that Rav Zohar disagrees?

    Spiritual danger is also real. If a child is indeed ruining the other children, then how can that be overlooked? But it is not a decision that one can make without guidance of a talmid chacham who is well acquainted with the dynamics of that particular family.

  14. Read new fabulous book entitled With Chords of Love by Rabbi Tauber. He discusses the complexities and what our forefathers did along with giving guidance all backed up by Rabbi Solomon. A must read for every parent raising a teenaged boy and girl in today’s era.

  15. Dear friends,
    Any person that is not in this Matzav of having a child that is OTD (on their Derech) current Journey, shouldn’t comment what they agree or don’t agree .
    Klall Yisrael had Rch”L close to 100 suicides and or Over Doses in the past 12 months and no they are not Bal Toevah or just having fun.

    We are clearly dealing with Pikuach Nefesh so I Beg you please don’t comment before you learnt this sugyah well.

    Have a gevaldige Shabbos

  16. I think loving means respecting a person for who he is,understanding him and his hardships,accepting you can’t force him to change but still hoping (praying)for the best for him(that he comes back to Torah.)

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