I first went to Yeshiva when I was in my mid-20’s after graduating college. My oldest brother’s wife is an unabashed Catholic. When he made what they call a bar-mitzvah, the pressure from my parents, who were alive at the time, was very great. My Rebbe called a well known Rov who was known for understanding baalei teshuva but also towed a hard line, justifiably so, in these areas. I remember sitting in the office as my Rebbe spoke to the Rov z’l in Yiddish. Since I understand Yiddish pretty well, I knew my Rebbe was giving this every sympathetic touch that he could. I knew he was advocating for me.
My Rebbe said to the Rov, “Would the Rov speak to the bochur and tell him?”
I still remember the tone he used in these few words, “I am mispallel for your mesiras nefesh not to GO!”
I did go. Of course, I knew not to, nor did I want to “daven”with them in their services. So I showed up at strategic points that would be more family oriented. Came to the Friday night dinner, walked over after shul Shabbos morning etc.
When another family “simcha” came up a couple of years later, a relative said to me, “We haven’t seen you in so long.”
I responded, “Don’t you remember I was at ______ bar-mitzvah?”
“Oh, you were there?”
I have always recalled this story with charata that I did not listen and I made a point of telling myself that when the situation would come up again, I would do better.
It did and this Rov was no longer living.
I went to a preeminent posek to ask all of the pertinent shailos. Everyone would agree that his word is golden in p’sak.
He gave a completely different answer. He told me I should go! The situation was also different. I was closer with this brother who was making a “bar-mitzvah” and he factored in the family relationship and thought there would be more harm done in the long run by not participating.
He told me I was allowed to be in the reform sanctuary at the time of their services. He told me I should do everything they do, just not daven. I davened privately and then came, and mingled with all of the family. I remember this brother was happy to see me there and I think I knew it wasn’t so easy for me.
The other factor that is important here is the intermarriage already took place many years before. He approached this very secheldik: he said they know you don’t approve of this. They know you look different and think differently. Nevertheless, family is family and you have to do all you can to maintain the relationship.
It worked for a time.
Now, both of my parents are in the olam ha-emes and this brother and I have not spoken in years because he is openly hostile to my frum lifestyle.
Boruch Hashem, I have no regrets because I listened to daas Torah