by Akiva of Mystical Paths (mpaths.com)
When I was a bit younger, a year or two from bar mitzvah age, my uncle went crazy. Or, so I was told. You see, he became ‘religious’, and the whole family told me my beloved uncle had gone absolutely bonkers. If he was coming to visit, they’d put their arms around me and say, “Akiva (though they didn’t call me Akiva back then), be careful when your uncle comes over, he’s gone crazy.” And, on a couple of occasions when I went to visit him with my grandmother, a”h, she’d carefully prep me, “Akiva (though she didn’t call me that back then), he and your cousins may act funny on Saturday or have funny food demands, don’t mind them because they’re crazy.”
Now my uncle is a man I greatly respect. He has a certain powerful presence, has done big things and is even a little famous. I respect his opinion and his intellgence, but of course didn’t respect anything about religion becase he was crazy. My cousins are close to my age, we always had fun together. When visiting, when they went to synogogue on Saturday I followed them and went with the flow. But of course, I didn’t pay much attention to what they were actually doing or what it meant, because they were crazy.
10 years later, no longer very close to my crazy uncle and his family, I started my own search. While I did call my uncle and a cousin early on and ask a few questions, and visited them for a Passover seder and for a Rosh Hashanah, they really weren’t involved in or much of an influence on my search. After all, who would put too much stock in somebody who was crazy?
My uncle and his family are nice mainstream orthodox Jews, they keep kosher and Shabbos and all the mitzvot. But they’re also very worldly, and that works great for them, may Hashem bless them.
Ahh, but my search went through Chabad. And I was at a stage in my life where changing lifestyles and diving in full force was, well not easy, but much more possible. So, five years later I was wearing a black hat and suit, and a full beard. The strictest levels of kosher and modesty began to come between me and my family.
Suddenly, one day my mother asked, “why can’t you be more normal like your uncle???”.
My uncle was crazy when judged by our, unfortunately, assimilated extended family. Compared to a chassidic lifestyle, now he’s normal and I’m the crazy one.
I told this story to my uncle recently, he told me they also called him up some years after I became religious and asked him, “what did you do to Akiva???”
Today, we crazy ones don’t know what we did, but all my grandfather’s and grandmother’s, a”h, great-grandchildren (15 of them between my cousins and myself), are frum religious Jews, Baruch Hashem Yishtabach Sh’mo, thank G-d, blessed is His name.