A story with much to teach

A front-page story in this week's paper tells of a local rabbi and his wife who struggled with their rebellious teenage daughter and emerged from the experience wiser as parents and human beings.

Their journey has much to teach, even to those of us who do not have children in the delicate teenage years.

It teaches, first of all, that the struggles the family underwent are far from unique. Adolescent and teen angst are profound and universal.

When Rabbi Alan Lew — who grappled with his own worries about being stigmatized because of his family's tribulations — divulged his troubles to his congregation, congregants approached him with similar stories, relieved their spiritual leader could relate to them on such a personal level.

That response says a lot.

Though many of us assume we are alone in the struggles we face, it is nearly always the case that others in our midst have seen similar challenges. That's a particularly important message to keep in mind in the Jewish community, where certain "not in a Jewish home!" stereotypes still abide.

Jewish homes, even those of rabbis and other Jewish leaders, it is clear, are as susceptible to troubled children, addiction, depression and strife as other homes.

But as this week's front-page story describes, such experiences, while painful and trying, can also offer opportunities for immense growth. They can teach us valuable lessons about patience and understanding, about our own resilience in the face of life's deepest lows.

Most importantly, perhaps, they can teach us something that Lew and his wife, Sherril Jaffe, seemed to learn over the course of their daughter's struggle: Sometimes the greatest challenge lies in accepting our loved ones not as we think they should be but as they are.