Ripples on a Pond

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.

9 comments on “Ripples on a Pond

  1. CLKL–Your sister is Kosher Newbie? I love her blog! I’m so excited to discover your blog here. What a small world!

    Gershon Seif–So true! I had a great teacher in third grade who was more likely to respond to a question with “what do you think?” than to provide an answer. I remember being so amazed that an adult wanted to hear my opinion and thought I was capable of thinking on my own. The fact that she didn’t hover over me and direct my every move really made an impact on me.

    Charnie–That is exactly the chain my brother suggested! It is so nice to have hundreds upon hundreds of coffee shops all over the place that are kosher certified. It’s like a tiny taste of what I imagine Israel is like.

  2. You’re so lucky, LA has the greatest kosher coffee place in the USA, Coffeebean & Tea Leaf (I think I have the name right). Not just better then Starbucks because it’s 100% kosher (muffins, et al), but because their coffees (hot & cold) are better too.

    Keep us posted on your brother’s journeys, literal and figurative.

  3. It’s like sharing a meal with wild birds. You need to pack a picnic to satisfy yourself and resolve to enjoy it for its own sake. Then you can spread an attractive blanket and make your sandwich available, while being sure not to chase them away. But, if you do anything aggressive to try to catch one, you’ll be eating alone for sure.

  4. So beautiful.

    And it’s true about every kind of relationships we have. And it’s not only about kiruv. This is true of parent/child relationships, spouses, siblings, teachers/students, and even rabbis/communities.

    The people who had the greatest impact on my life never told me what to do. They were inspired people and great role models. I eventually went to them with my questions. The wisest of those mentors, even then, still didn’t tell me what to do. They just put the options on the table.

  5. That’s wonderful, Fern!

    Your brother’s transformation is due, not doubt, to your gentle and enthusiastic example.

    I know how it feels to sit in amazement and wonder at something like this. My sister kashered her kitchen just after pesach THIS year. We came from a completely non-observant home. I became observant over two decades ago, and had absolutely no expectation of…well, anything… in this area from her. In fact, she was always quite emphatic that my ‘lifestyle’ held no interest for her.

    Just last week, I posted about why I’m not planning to ‘sell’ my sister on shabbat observance.

    May you and your brother share much progress (and kosher meals!) together. Kol Hakavod to both of you.

    All the best,

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