My mother, of blessed memory, sold cosmetics for over 50 years. She was the proverbial saleswoman who could sell anyone the Brooklyn Bridge. She could convince anyone to do just about anything. Our family still jokes about the household item she put up for sale, that wasn’t the kind of thing anyone would buy, and yet she sold it. At her funeral, my son expressed his hope that now that she was in Heaven, she would convince Hashem to send the Messiah quickly. (I guess that has been a harder job for her than selling cosmetics.)
Me? I’m the total opposite. I’m not good at convincing people to do things; I don’t recall ever being able to sell anyone anything. I’m just not aggressive enough, assertive enough, whatever the correct term is. But for some reason, I feel deep down that a BT is “supposed” to be able to convince other Jews that a Torah lifestyle is best.
A tragedy occurred recently in my extended family. It was not a death; that could happen to anyone. It was a terrible series of events that “should not” have happened in a religious family – but it did. Even now, as I write, I am still in pain, still stunned and numbed by the shock, trying to put my thoughts into coherent words.
Besides the pain and shock, though, there is another thought that keeps surfacing: How will the non-religious people that I know view a Torah lifestyle now? These people were Torah-observant, and yet this terrible thing happened. I have already gotten comments from one non-religious person, to the effect that if they had not followed the Torah’s command to do thus-and-so, then this tragedy would not have happened.
We know that human beings are fallible. Despite the Torah’s prescriptions, we are going to fail sometimes. Some failures will be trivial; some will be as serious as this tragedy. But how can a BT convey that to the non-religious world, while still maintaining that the Torah’s laws are ultimately beneficial? How can a BT even convey it to himself or herself?
We are reading about Avraham Avinu and his many tests. Each of us has tests; but I am not Avraham Avinu, although I am his descendant. My world and my family’s world has been shaken. How to sweep up the pieces?
One Torah benefit I can point to is the supportive communities, both for that part of my family and for myself. When someone has experienced a tragedy, Torah-observant people rally round the person and support them in countless ways. Besides the fact that we are a merciful people, the Torah commands this support.
But for the rest of it, the whys and the wherefores, it is a hard “sell” at this moment.