Reprinted from JewishMom.com.
“Umm, well, you see Morah Achinoam…”
“Hallel needs to take two weeks off from school in January in order to travel to Canada to ‘discover her roots’…”
A “Masa Shorashim.” That was the embarrassingly lame white lie I invented in order to justify Hallel’s upcoming two-week absence from 6th grade. But “discovering her roots,” a phrase that evokes images of Eastern European graveyards and forgotten synagogues being used as Hungarian city halls, was infinitely loftier than the true purpose of Hallel’s upcoming trip to my husband’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario…
On this much-anticipated trip, Hallel would go skating on a frozen lake and tobogganing and (can you believe this?) SNOWMOBILING by the family cottage.
In other words, the point of Hallel’s pre-bat mitzvah trip (which her older sister went on as well before her bat mitzvah 2 years ago) was to have lots of fun in lots of snow with my husband’s parents.
So Hallel’s been away now for a week in Canada, and she’s having a fantastic time…
So far, she’s adored “boganning” and snowmobiling with Savta and watching an entire (completely mystifying) Patriots game with Saba…
But something that I hadn’t really thought so much about before Hallel left for Canada was the fact that we were sending our 11-year-old girl off entirely on her own to an entirely secular environment…
B”H, my in-laws are long-standing experts at “kosherizing” and the “kosher rules” as my mother-in-law calls them. And, miraculously, a very lovely, friendly young couple just opened up a Chabad House on THE SAME BLOCK as my father-in-law’s house and they generously hosted Hallel for both Shabbat meals.
But, in addition, during our phone calls Hallel’s been updating me on how she’s trying her best to live as a Jew in Kingston. She told me about how she decided to wear a skirt over her snowpants when she went “boganning” with Savta, and how she made Kiddush all by herself on Shabbat morning, and how she’s been davening almost every day, all on her own.
And I realized something that I hadn’t realized before.
My husband and I are two baalei teshuva raising a family-full of FFB children. And our children have never ever spent time on their own outside of an Orthodox home and framework.
So for the past week, for the first time in her life Hallel has been presented with a choice. With no Orthodox parents or teachers or friends or random busy-bodies looking over her shoulder, she has had to choose whether she would actually keep the laws that she has grown up with for the past 11 years…Despite the fact that if she didn’t daven or wash before bread or wear skirts, no Kingstonian would even bat a frost-bitten eyelid.
But there, in that totally secular environment, Hallel has decided to live in accordance with the Torah, just like Josh and I decided to when we lived in our own secular environments.
And I realized that my lame white lie to Morah Achinoam was actually the truth after all.
Hallel IS discovering her roots, retracing the route of the journey back to Hashem that Josh and I took ourselves 20 years ago.