By Yentl Eisenberg
Reprinted from JewishMom.com
We were invited to a celebration in honor of my niece’s high school graduation. Just a nice simple dinner at my brother’s vacation home down the shore.
Only there were potential problems.
There are always problems, but this time I really didn’t want to deal with any of it. We are frum and the rest of the family is not. They are really nice about it and try to accommodate our needs. Only, it’s never really good enough.
There are the problems of kashrus, of where to get kosher-enough food.
There is our relatives’ insistence on serving wine to make a toast, non-kosher of course.
And then there’s the complicated family politics, this one won’t talk to that one. That one is too liberal, this one is too right-wing. Further complicated by a diverse array of spouses, the exes, the soon-to-be exes, the “companions,” the children of girl-friends, children of second marriages, significant others, etc.
And then there’s me, the crazy religious one with 10 kids and a zealot for a husband.
In a room full of Jews, they all agree on one thing: nobody likes Jews who think like me.
The questions are insistent and invasive. At first they seem genuinely interested in the answers. But as the hour passes, it becomes evident that I have entered a trap to show how inferior and useless religion is. How can I ascribe to a way of life if I don’t know “why” I am doing these senseless things? How can I live a life of poverty, because as frum people, we no longer have the same material aspirations as them?
And then there is the deeper trap. The obvious glaring difference between a life of material plenty and comfortable religious non-observance vs. our life of material hardship and what they see as overly strict religious adherence. As my grown son said, “I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that a person can have two houses. One to live in and the other just for weekends and vacations.” We don’t even own one house, let alone go on vacations.
I have kept away from these innocent family gatherings for 20 years. I knew it would be too difficult to gracefully figure out the kosher food thing (with hand washing and bentching, not to mention arranging mincha davening etc…). I stayed away from the parties that were held at someone’s poolside to avoid the bathing suit problems. I stayed away from the vast riches of upper middle class American Jewish success so that my children wouldn’t become tempted by the glitz. I stayed away from the relatives so that I could avoid the intellectual and emotional Inquisitions.
Which today leaves me with a burning question.
I know that I am living the Way of Truth—the Way of Torah and Hashem. I am supposed to be a Light Unto the Nations.
So how come I am such a coward when that Nation is mine?