As I became frum [20 years ago at age 19 and fully observant by age 20] and for the first couple of years and afterwards, I would always question “How do I know I made the right choice?”. The answer I came up with then was:
• Everything physical is temporary.
• I believe in a soul.
• I believe in G-d.
• I believe in the Revelation at Sinai.
Those beliefs were the seeds that germinated into a firm conviction of making the choice to become frum with all that it entails. Of course having the commitment to learn four years in Yeshiva and the privileged of learning with VERY patient Rabbonim to field my questions and learning Torah only helped. However, I think one of the interesting dynamics of being a BT is that once you’ve turned your life upside down for something you believe, you will do it again if compelled to do so. So am I frum 20 years later because of habit, community pressure, family pressure, etc? How do I know I made the right choice?
I heard it once said that “Judaism is not a religion, it is a relationship.”. That really captures and underscores everything – I know this is the right choice because I am in a relationship with Hashem. A healthy relationship is a two way street where both define what needs to be contributed in order to sustain and nourish the relationship. So while I may have not initially thought to keep kosher, become shomer Shabbat, observe Taharas HaMipocha, daven 3x a day with a minyan, set times for Torah study etc. – since this is important to Hashem and I want a relationship with Him – then I accustom myself to these things (which may or may not come naturally (most don’t)) to foster our relationship.
Entering into the month of Elul, I am reminded of the verse by Shlomo HaMelech from Shir HaShirim “I am to my Beloved as my Beloved is to me” which makes up the acronym for Elul. So this concept of a relationship between Hashem and every individual Jew being compared to a marriage is not new and Elul is an opportune time to reflect on that.
Marriage has its phases – dating, newlywed and married life. These phases and how they play out in a BT’s experience deserves an article unto itself but the main point is – while dating and being a newlywed are times when feelings of love are overflowing – it is only during the 3rd phase – married life i.e. “I am together with you, no matter what, forever. I am willing to compromise, grow and build a life in partnership with you.” – that living that over time creates real commitment and true love. This 3rd phase is especially real to me because I’m no longer in 1rst & 2nd phases which are often characterized by the “wide-eyed” BT immersed in the beauty of Torah without obligations. Boruch Hashem I’m married, have 8 children [ages 15-1yr], and work as an IT Program Manager as part of an overall Torah lifestyle with all that it entails. Needless to say that while its very beautiful, its also has its challenges. At this stage in life and phase in my “marriage” with all of the “Orthonomics”, I often ask myself “Hey – you are now 40 and living a life based on beliefs and information you had at 19 – how do you know you made the right decision?”.
I know this is the right choice because I am in a relationship with Hashem. So while I may have gotten “married” at 19, I’m in a 20 year long marriage that has been a dynamic relationship filled with discovery, growth, ups, challenges and a love that comes from commitment, not convenience.
Now in Elul it is especially appropriate to review and deepen my “Shalom Bayis”, my relationship with Hashem as the pasuk says “I am to mt Beloved” first, then follows “my Beloved is to me.”.
Wishes for a shanah tovah U’metuka