The Meanest Father in the World

Thursday, 4 November, 2021 - 10:54 pm

Question of the Week

A question for you that I have been wrestling with. Much of the liturgy praises Hashem for kindness, compassion etc. In what way is Hashem kind? Looking around the world I can see a lot of evidence to the contrary.


It is a great question. How can we call Hashem kind when He seems so cruel?

My children say the same thing about me. My four-year-old calls me the meanest father in the world. He wants to exchange me for a new one. 

And he has several good reasons for disapproving of my fatherhood.

Often he asks me for lollies, and I say no. For every ten requests he makes for treats, maybe once do I let him have one. Yesterday he was begging and screaming and crying just for one lolly, and I coldly refused to give it to him. How could I not be moved by his tears? Mean.

The other day I grabbed his hand as he was about to run onto a busy road. I pulled him so hard that his arm hurt. What type of father does that? Mean.

I took him to a doctor to get his vaccinations. And I just sat there as the doctor poked a big needle into him. I did nothing to stop this attack. Should a father and protector sit passively and watch his child being hurt? Mean.

And the worst thing of all, I put him to bed earlier than his brothers and sisters. They get to stay up and play while he has to go to sleep and miss out on all the fun. What did he do wrong to deserve that? Why am I punishing him unfairly? There can only be one explanation. Mean. 

There is no justification for any of this in the mind of a four-year-old. He can't understand that I do it all out of love and care for him. He doesn't consider the fact that I also feed him, dress him, take him to the park, and provide all his needs. He can't see the irony of calling his parents mean, when it was his parents who gave him life in the first place.

A little kid can't be expected to appreciate all this. A child lacks perspective, doesn't see the full picture, and can only react to his narrow experience of reality. It's not his fault. That's how it is meant to be. A child is supposed to have a child's view. Maybe it's good that he thinks I'm mean. Maybe it will make him stand up and prevent the suffering of others. I don't mind when he protests my apparent cruelty. But I can't explain it to him either.

So I will continue to love him, and do what's best for him, even if he calls me mean. Hopefully, he'll keep me on as his father. And one day in the future, he will understand what he can't imagine now, that I'm not so mean after all. 

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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