In preparing to move my newly married daughter out of the house I found two letters that we had exchanged a few years ago. The letters were written in the summer of 2001 while Elisheva, between eighth and ninth grades at the time, was away at camp in the Catskill Mountains and are reprinted below with her permission.
Dear Mommy & Abba,
I don’t really know how to start this letter but I guess I’ll try. Approximately a month ago before camp I came to two decisions. They were made on my own; no one put me up to it. It was something I needed to do for myself. I guess I’ll get right to the point. The first thing I decided is that I won’t wear slits anymore. As of now I don’t have any slitted skirts, so I just won’t buy any with slits. The second thing is (to get right to the point) I don’t want to go to the movie theatre anymore. The last few times I went I just sort of cringe and feel like this is not where I belong. I hope you respect and approve these decisions. I don’t expect you to go out of your way for me, for example on Chol Hamoed. I’ll be fine, I’ll go to a friend or whatever. I really love and admire both of you.
First of all, Happy Birthday! Wow, you’re 14. It’s hard to believe. Seems like yesterday you were clutching your “pillow”. Oh wait, it was yesterday. (he he)
Regarding your letter to us. Not only do we respect and approve of your decision, but we are very proud of you. As parents we can plant the seeds and nurture the growth of your Yiddishkeit, but we don’t know it has taken root until you begin to grow on your own.
As Baalei Teshuva mommy and I both know how important it is to be able to come to observance on one’s own. Before any of you were born we joked how it would be nice if we could raise our children non-frum so they could become Baalei Teshuva on their own.
The truth is though, a Baal Teshuva is not just someone who goes from eating at McDonald’s to eating at KD [Kosher Delight]. Everyone, no matter how “frum”, can and should be a Baal Teshuva.
Some parents worry when their children become “frummer”. We know that you are a very level-headed person who can tell the difference between true growth in Yiddishkeit and a lot of the “Shtus” out there that people pretend is being “frum”. You also know that Frumkeit is not just on the outside, but also the type of person you are and how you represent Yiddishkeit to other Jews and even non-Jews.
We look forward to watching your continued growth into a true Bas Torah.
Abba & Mommy