I was so excited to see the topics for this week’s Beyond BT, because I am just bursting with pride to share something on point.
When I started making little changes to live a Torah life, my then 16-year old brother noticed and asked me about what I was up to. He attends a Jewish day school so he has a decent basis in Jewish learning. We had some good conversations. When I wanted to look for a shul that fit me, he agreed to go to a different Shabbat service with me each week until I found the “right” shul. I never told him that he should change anything about what he was doing, but I was upfront about where I was with my own spirituality and answered his questions or helped him find the answer when I didn’t know the answer.
Slowly I started noticing him making his own changes. First he gave up bacon cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza, which I know was difficult for him, because they were things he really loved eating. He also started wearing his kippa all the time. After a bunch of smaller changes (by smaller I don’t mean less important, but just ones that were easier for my brother to make) things started picking up and he asked a local Orthodox rabbi about getting his own pair of teffilin.
Tomorrow my brother leaves for a school trip to Poland and Israel. Last week I took him to get a coffee so that I could spend a little bit of time with him before he left. While we were drinking our coffees, he remarked that next time we should go to a different chain of coffee houses because they have kosher certified cakes and cookies. Then, he told me that he wanted to get a tallit katan while he was in Israel. I was so proud that he wanted to take on this mitzvah and so honored to have played my small part in his taking on these mitzvot.
It’s amazing how much differently things go when you aren’t pushy. I think the best thing we can do to help bring our friends and family members closer to Hashem is to be a good role model and to have honest, non-judgmental conversations about Judaism.