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Community Blog Embracing the Evil Impulse

By Beth Winograd

Beth WinogradWhen I signed up to take the course Parenting Your Teen Through a Jewish Lens, I was looking forward to meeting some new people in the Jewish community and brainstorming with parents who share my Jewish values on those “tricky” issues we face as the parents of teens. As our final session of the course approaches, I realize how much more this class has meant to me, and has given to me. This class has become a place where we can honestly and deeply — without judgment — talk about our hopes and dreams for our children and our families. We’ve also shared about how our own backgrounds guide how we parent. We’ve learned so much from one another, as well as from our amazing teacher Judy Elkin, who guides us, empowers us, and believes in us.  Each class leaves me thinking, reflecting, and striving to learn more.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the “Yetzer Hara” – The Evil Impulse.  We started with an exercise where we identified ourselves on a spectrum between the two sayings, “I am but dust and ashes” or “For my sake was the world created.” And then we did the exercise from the perspective of one of our children. Just this exercise alone generated amazing conversation and reflection about our differing perceptions of our role in the world from one another and then again as compared with our teens. The conversation led us to discussions of teen self-centeredness, the development of the teenage brain, and the “Selfie” generation.

At first blush, of course, it was easy to feel that any “evil impulse” in our teens is unacceptable for many reasons. But nothing is ever so straightforward. By looking at Jewish text in the context of our current lives, this conversation was so rich and full of complexity.  That “evil” impulse in our teens can also be seen as their vibrancy, their energy, their passions, and their resourcefulness.  Our history teaches us that the “Yetzer Hara” should not be extinguished but is in fact necessary. I find myself often thinking back to the questions we raised during that class about how to guide our children toward a place of empathy, responsibility and independence while embracing the joy and energy they bring to each day.

Each week when class ends I am so grateful for the “aha” moments I had during class. More importantly, every week I leave with a beautiful reminder that each of my teens, as well as each of us, are made in G-d’s image.  I feel blessed to have participated in this class.

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