How Have You Dealt With Conformity?

A good piece of advice for BTs is to try to conform to the standards of the community you live in.

Do you agree with this advice?

How have you implemented it in your life?

In what ways are you not conforming and how has it effected you?

10 comments on “How Have You Dealt With Conformity?

  1. While there may be a social price to be paid by not conforming there is a bigger loss incurred by trying to obliterate unique aspects of one’s individual personality.If you must be the multi-colored yarmulke in a sea of black hats- then so be it

  2. Well by conforming to your community you’ll have people coming over to eat in your house on Shabbos. Not being flip, just pointing out that a certain amount of conformity to community standards is part of belonging to a kehilla. Maybe my community is more open, being that a lot of us are BTs, so conforming isn’t too hard.

  3. Dovy,

    Why do you look on family minhagim as burdens? Some people take pride in them.

  4. I never understood why a child supposedly must continue his father’s minhagim. Is it really fair to saddle a child with things found nowhere in the Torah or TSBP?

  5. My husband Ira was raised by a frum mother and a frei (nonreligious) father. He attended a well-known yeshiva, but felt very left out as all of the other boys there had frum fathers as role models to learn with and learn from. Most of his minhagim were gained from his rebbes in yeshiva or from the men in the neighborhood “shteebl” among whom he davened. For example, Ira took it on himself not to wear tefillin during Chol HaMoed, because in the shul where he davened one of the other mispallelim told him that men who don’t work during Chol HaMoed shouldn’t wear tefillin either (which is actually not a correct reason for doing this).

    Ira told our sons that they shouldn’t feel required to keep his minhagim, as he did not believe that these minhagim, acquired as they were from his rebbes and neighbors, really counted as family minhagim, and he strongly pushed our boys not to just copy him but to discuss these minhagim with their own rebbes at yeshiva to determine what should be the correct way to do things. To his surprise, our oldest son told him,”Daddy, if you do something, it does become our family minhag, and if not halachically incorrect, it should be followed by those in our family.” He felt very honored that our sons respected him despite their own greater Torah knowledge.

  6. Increasingly, family members with direct, accurate knowledge of the family’s old country minhagim are becoming fewer and fewer. For families that assimilated or left Orthodoxy while still over there, information is even scarcer.

    Reconstructing minhagim without such knowledge can be chancy because often various communities and minhagim coexisted in a given area.

  7. David – what you are doing with your sons sounds great.

    historically, though, the majority of bt’s landed up being welcomed into shuls that were “mainstream” nusach ashkenaz, and that is where they learned to daven and those are the minhagim that they adopted. so it is natural that most bt’s, no matter where their families hail from, have taken on this standard. it’s hard enough to learn how to daven – having to do things differently from all the frum ppl around you makes it even harder.

    a young fellow i know has a sfardi mother and his father was not jewish. because mom was proud of her heritage, she gave him a talis at his bar mitzvah and when he became frum at the age of 16 he used it daily. but as time went on he felt more and more uncomfortable with his weird status; he was “saddled” with the distinction of having sfardi minhagim, within an almost completely ashkenazi yeshiva environment, without really knowing what those minhagim even were! (and mom couldn’t be of too much help.) in the end, he was feeling a bit burdened by this awkwardness and a posek told him he did not have to keep the sfardi minhagim if he did not want to, and he dropped them. it was liberating and not about the pressure of conformity as much as it was about just being able to pattern himself after those around him.

  8. I think there needs to be a certain amount of conformity. I don’t think people should seperate themselves from the community or follow bizzare, weird, or extreme minority hashkafas. However, I think there is an unfortunate trend among some BT’s (and even some FFB’s) to believe this myth that everyone should follow this very specific Litvish/Yeshivish derech. Pre-WWII Orthodoxy was very diverse with almost every country of Europe having variations on the nusach, etc.
    One way in that I don’t conform is that I am passing along to my sons the almost lost Hungarian custom of wearing a tallis before marriage, which runs counter to the majority Eastern European minhagim that dominate the non-Sephardi frum world. I also try to teach my son’s some of the differences between our nusach and that of the standard Artscroll they learn in school.
    I don’t believe in extreme difference for the sake of being different, but one should be proud of who one is, and not just follow the croud either. I find it kind of sad when I encounter BT’s that come from unique backgrounds (Yekkish, etc) that when they become frum, rather than asking their grandparents what their family minhagim were like, they simply copy Litvish/Yeshivish minhagim (or occasionaly become Chabad.)

  9. perhaps, but the amount of conformity which is sometimes expected is sometimes troubling. if people want to conform, that is fine. the problem with it is when it becomes some sort of requirement for admission to a community. i think we all need to think about this.

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