Am I more judgmental of the non-observant since becoming a BT?
This was a question posted by David & Mark to BeyondBT contributors. It’s a good question. One that I constantly ask myself. I feel especially sensitive to this question because before I started becoming more observant, there were several people (both BTs and FFBs) who I felt were judgmental towards me and it was a definite turn off. At one point I even sent in a letter of resignation to an organization I was working with when the coordinators sent me what I felt was an extremely insulting e-mail about my eating at a non-kosher restaurant after an event was over. After that incident, and a few other interactions with people in an orthodox environment who questioned me and put me on the defensive, I pretty much ruled out becoming more observant, in fact, I became almost non-practicing (e.g. High Holidays and Passover only). I didn’t want to be in an environment where I always felt judged.
It wasn’t until years later when I began dating the woman who would become my wife, and being welcomed by her Modern Orthodox family that I again thought of being more observant. This time most of the reaction was positive. Her family never flinched when I made a mistake, or when I spoke of things I did that were not things an observant person does. I also began going to my local Chabad and was welcomed with no questions asked, and no patronizing lectures directed at me. I was told that when I was ready to move up, they were there to help me, and when the time really did come, they were the ones who did help. There were still a few incidents where someone else (usually not in the family, or in Chabad) would overzealously push me before I felt ready (for example, keeping kosher outside the home, which I was working up to) but by this point I had learned to tune them out. I honestly think if others hadn’t made me feel so judged in the past, and instead had helped me to feel welcome and worked with me, I would have become more observant earlier in life. I still regret those years in-between that were full of wasted opportunities.
Now on the occasions when my wife and I have non-observant friends, or family over, I sometimes feel that they are waiting for me to start judging them and tell them what they are doing wrong. However, after my experiences when I was the one being judged, I could never do that to another. Instead, I simply try to make them feel as welcome as people had finally made me feel. As Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.”