Understanding and Accepting Different Types of Jews

I grew up in a “conservative” home where we kept kosher in the house, and ate treif out. We went to temple on Saturday morning and to the beach or the mall on Saturday afternoon. Like many a reformed smoker, when I became Shomer Shabbat I quickly became intolerant of that which I left behind. As I moved up the ranks of orthodoxy, becoming more careful in my mitzvah observance, I was becoming intolerant of those who were less observant.

I would silently question: Why does he dress like that in shul? Why doesn’t he go to minyan? Why doesn’t she cover her hair? Like the quintessentially egocentric highway driver, everyone else was either driving too slow or too fast, only I was driving at the right speed!

With the passage of time, added maturity, a little wisdom, and some hard life experiences I’ve come to see how foolish I was. We have absolutely no idea of either the entire picture of person’s life or what metric G-d uses to judge us.

The glimpse we see of other people is merely a few frames of a multi-million-frame movie. And even were we to view the whole movie we’d have no idea how to “review” it.

Moving to Israel has crystallized this outlook even more. Here, people are very neatly divided up as either “Chilonim” (non-religious) or “Daatiim” (religious). But there’s nothing “neat” about it. Here are just a few examples:

– It’s not uncommon to see a scantily clad women sitting on a bus reading from a well-worn sefer tehillim with kavanah that you’d expect from the greatest sage.
– When my wife recently offered my, apparently, chiloni workers some milk for their coffee they said they can’t have any because they are “basari” (fleishig).
– My ulpan teacher knows tanach better than the vast majority of FFB yeshiva kids in America!

Of course more fundamentally, we have no idea what kind of merit accrues to these “chilonim” for living here, building this miraculous country, and risking their lives to defend us all.

In our shul this past Friday after mincha we said tehillim as a refuah for Ariel Sharon. One person walked out and several people gave the Rabbi a really hard time about it. Even though the rabbi was strongly against the disengagement from Gaza, he was unapologetic. First he said, Sharon is a Jew and we have an obligation to pray for him. Then he added that Sharon, this Chiloni head of state, has “Z’chuyot Ein Kamohu”. (He has merits like no one else.)

I think we need to treat everyone as if he has Z’chuyot Ein Kamohu and leave it to G-d to do the actual tally.

Originally Posted on January 11, 2006

Turning 50, Reflecting on 35 Years as a BT

In January my wife invited the family for Shabbat in celebration of my 50th birthday. Except for my dad (who we’re working on), everyone lives here in Israel. (We managed to grab a quick picture after Shabbat). It was truly very special to be surrounded by all these loved ones for this momentous birthday.

As a special treat, my daughter emailed a few of my friends and asked them to write a little something for the occasion. We had a lot of fun over the course of Shabbat as she read the responses and I had to guess who wrote them. One of the responses was from the Rav of my Shul back in Edison, NJ. In part he wrote:

Michael – you have done amazingly well with the first 50 years of your life. You are constantly redefining yourself and becoming a new and improved version. You are a living model of Hachodesh Hazeh Lochem. I think if someone would have met you once a decade for the past 50 years, each encounter would be a surprise because you continuously have changed.

As a person involved in software design, the idea of creating new and improved versions struck a chord with me. Isn’t that what we’re really all about? The Teshuva process, and of course this isn’t just limited to BT’s, involves an effort to constantly create and release new “versions” of ourselves. Some versions are just “patches” while others are major revisions.

Selecting 35 years as the amount of time I’ve been a BT was an interesting exercise. How do you define version 1.0 of a person’s development? Even though I attended a Yeshiva day school through 8th grade it wouldn’t be accurate for me to consider the things I did while I was there as a part of the process since these were things I did just because I was told to. For example, though I wore a Kippa and Tzitzit to school, I’d throw them off the minute I got home.

Even so, much of that early “programming” must have had an impact, as within just a few months after entering 9th grade in public high school I experienced, what I consider to be, my BT starting point. Just around my 15th birthday I flew down to Florida to visit my grandmother in Boca Raton. On the way down I ate the regular airline meal, but on the way back I ordered a Kosher meal. The process had begun.

Over the next year and a half I attended no less than 30 NCSY Shabbatons. During that time, among other things, I began walking 4 miles to Shul on Shabbat. In the beginning I’d actually return from that 8 mile round trip trek and hop in the car with my folks to go to a mall or the beach. But by the end of that period I was pretty much Shomer Shabbat. There wasn’t yet a lot depth to my Frumkeit as, well let’s face it; I was involved in NCSY mostly for the girls. (Something which turned out to be a good thing as I met the girl who was to become my wife during those years.)

My first philosophical epiphany came in my senior year of high school during the course of an anatomy elective. No, it had nothing to do with the fact that the cheerleading captain was my lab partner. It did have to do with the fact that we spent nearly a year dissecting a cat. After becoming so intimately aware of the intricacies of this magnificent creature, it became impossible for me to believe that this extremely complex creation wasn’t “designed”. I now had the belief to go along with my actions.

Yet, still I cruised through college and the early part of my marriage with a very basic level of observance. The combination of the birth of my first child and the death of my mom soon after forced me to confront a couple of key issues. How was I going to transmit the beauty of Torah observance in a “do as I say not as I do” mode? And, if I truly believed that, as part of this religious system I now adhered to, my mom was in an afterlife. shouldn’t I be more consistent and careful in how I approached everything? If this religion thing was for “real” then I had to treat it as such. So I embarked on an effort study and apply as much Halacha as I could.

This led me on a path to the “right”; in the shuls I attended, the schools we sent our kids to, and even my appearance. As, it seemed to me then, that’s where all the serious people were. Eventually, though, I ran into some obstacles. Not the least of which was that I consider myself a Zionist and even in the most laid back of right-wing Shuls this is not always an easy fit. Zionism has always been a core part of my belief system, even since before I was Frum. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my dad’s middle name is Herzl. Whatever the case, I was finding it difficult to be in a place were people were, at best, neutral to, what I saw as, the numerous miracles evident in the founding of the modern state of Israel. Like in my high school anatomy class, it had become just as impossible for me not to see the “design” in the founding of the Jewish state as for me not to see the design of that cat. I endeavored to tread the line between being to the right and being a religious Zionist. Though this is not easy to do in America, I managed with this tension until we were finally able to make Aliyah.

We arrived in Israel nearly five years ago. Here in our community and Shul in Beit Shemesh I found my ideological home. Our Rav is a major Talmud Chachom, our congregants are very serious about their Yiddishkeit and we are all proud religious Zionists.

Living in Israel, however, has brought a whole new set of realizations and challenges. For instance, there are many very Frum and learned people who don’t look the part, at least as we defined it in America. Conversely, there are many who have the “look”, but who are sorely lacking in many areas. There are others who aren’t Frum as we traditionally define it, but who are nevertheless very religious. And there are still others who are neither, yet through their contributions to the nation and its security have earned great merit.

Partly as a result of this exposure, I’ve experienced a shift in emphasis from the personal to the communal. I find that here in Israel, much more so than in the U.S., our individual religious choices impact on the broader community and even the nation as a whole in ways that are complex and far-reaching. This realization is leading me to reweigh my priorities. Even the last 3 years I’ve spent learning in Yeshiva part-time has caused some unexpected shifts in the way I view my role in the Torah world. It’s a work in progress.

So, as my Rav predicted, I’m in the process of changing again. My goal is always to become an “improved” version. With the help of G-d, wonderful Rabbis, friends and family (my beta testers) I will continue to endeavor to do so. I hope to report back in a few years and let you know how version 6.0 is doing.

Chumras in Perspective

A couple of weeks ago in my Gemorah shiur we got into an aside about Chumras. The Rabbe mentioned that he had once been approached by a gentleman who was asking for Tzedeka to help him buy a set of Tefillin for his grandson. As the discussion unfolded it turned out that this grandfather was seeking assistance in buying a $1500 set of Tefillin! The Rebbe, originally inclined to assist, declined to contribute. He said that it’s one thing to help with a mitzvah, but this gentleman should not be asking others to support his chumra.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine shared a D’var Torah with me at a Shalom Zachor. It was around Parshat Vayakel. He started by posing the question, “What was the difference between the Keilim (vessels) that were in the Beit Hamikdash vs those in the Mishkan”? The answer is that in the Mishkan there was only one of each vessel and they were smaller than the ones in the Beit Hamikdash. This was so in spite of the fact that the B’nei Yisrael offered Moshe enough to have larger and multiple vessels in the Mishkan. In fact the B’nai Yisrael were offering so much of their possessions that Moshe had to tell them to stop. Why did he stop them? Surely, he knew that their destiny was to build a Temple large enough to accommodate whatever they wanted give. The answer given was that since the Mishkan was portable and carried by men, Moshe did not want the B’nai Yisrael to think that they could satisfy their desire to do extra (be Machmir) on their brothers’ backs.

The message seems clear. As much as we may desire to go above and beyond in our service to Hashem we must always balance this desire against its affect on those around us. Even when dealing in areas of normative halacha there is room to be lenient when it comes to issues of Shalom Bayis and Darche Shalom. How much more so must we be careful when dealing with that which is not required of us. Whether BT or FFB (and sometimes this can even be harder for FFBs) we can be faced with people, situations and environments that are not always, shall we say, receptive of our latest “development”.

Though so much in our observance seems black and white, this is one area where we can really modulate our observance to fit the environment. A kashrut Chumra, for example, which might work well in our kitchen, may prove to be onerous in our parents’ kitchen. One that works well in the New York Metro area might be really hard for the kids to keep while on vacation in Orlando. Something that makes sense in our community might be ridiculously out of place in our grandparents’ condo.

I guess another way to look at this is to weigh our desire to do a chumra against the chumra of being extra sensitive to those around us; whether they are spouses, children, parents, friends, or colleagues.

About a year ago I posted a piece about my teenage daughter’s decision to adopt a couple of chumras of her own when she was 14. One of them was to stop going to the movies. At the time, I wrote back to her that I was proud of her growth and a hope that she would, “… also know that Frumkeit is not just on the outside, but also the type of person you are and how you represent Yiddishkeit to other Jews and even non-Jews.”

A few years later, after we had moved to Israel, my daughter went back to the states for a visit. There, she spent a few days with my father. There’s not all that much for a not-so-mobile 70 something man and teenage girl to do down on the Jersey shore. My father suggested they go to a movie and my daughter, understanding the nuances of the situation, agreed. She did not “fall off the wagon” nor was she giving into some deep seated urge to see a flick. She maturely assessed that her chumra need not be carried on my father’s back.

My daughter’s ability to put her chumra in perspective showed me that, not only had she become “frum” on the outside, but that she had integrated her Frumkeit in a way that made her both a better Jew and a better person. That, I believe, is the essence of what our Rebbe was saying to us and what Moshe Rabeinu was saying to B’nei Yisroel.

A “Nifty” Chag

On the first day of Succot we accumulated quite an eclectic group of individuals.

It started when my “yeshivish” daughter and son-in-law decided to come for the chag. We’re always thrilled when our married children come for Shabbos or a holiday.

Next, I received an email from an old high school friend. Her son is here in Israel on a one-semester program run by NIFTY for high school students. She wanted to know if he and a friend could join us for the holiday. (NIFTY is the reform movement’s youth organization.) We used to live down the street from them and I haven’t seen this boy in many years, but knowing his parents, I was confident that he grew up to be a fine young man.
Read more A “Nifty” Chag

Mazal Tov to Menachem and Randi Lipkin on the Birth of a Son

Mazal Tov to Beyond BT contributor Menachem Lipkin and his wife Randi on the birth of a boy this morning.

Here’s the message from Menachem:

We are thrilled to welcome the latest addition to the Lipkin family. Our son was born Monday afternoon at 3:15 in Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek Hospital. He weighed in at 2.8 kg (6.17lbs), has beautiful red hair, and of course has the special distinction of being our Sabra.

We know that he will bring much love and joy to our family.

You can see a few pictures at www.lipkinfamily.com

Menachem (Michael) and Randi

An Exchange of Letters With My Daughter

In preparing to move my newly married daughter out of the house I found two letters that we had exchanged a few years ago. The letters were written in the summer of 2001 while Elisheva, between eighth and ninth grades at the time, was away at camp in the Catskill Mountains and are reprinted below with her permission.

Dear Mommy & Abba,

I don’t really know how to start this letter but I guess I’ll try. Approximately a month ago before camp I came to two decisions. They were made on my own; no one put me up to it. It was something I needed to do for myself. I guess I’ll get right to the point. The first thing I decided is that I won’t wear slits anymore. As of now I don’t have any slitted skirts, so I just won’t buy any with slits. The second thing is (to get right to the point) I don’t want to go to the movie theatre anymore. The last few times I went I just sort of cringe and feel like this is not where I belong. I hope you respect and approve these decisions. I don’t expect you to go out of your way for me, for example on Chol Hamoed. I’ll be fine, I’ll go to a friend or whatever. I really love and admire both of you.

Much Love,



Dear Elisheva,

First of all, Happy Birthday! Wow, you’re 14. It’s hard to believe. Seems like yesterday you were clutching your “pillow”. Oh wait, it was yesterday. (he he)

Regarding your letter to us. Not only do we respect and approve of your decision, but we are very proud of you. As parents we can plant the seeds and nurture the growth of your Yiddishkeit, but we don’t know it has taken root until you begin to grow on your own.

As Baalei Teshuva mommy and I both know how important it is to be able to come to observance on one’s own. Before any of you were born we joked how it would be nice if we could raise our children non-frum so they could become Baalei Teshuva on their own.

The truth is though, a Baal Teshuva is not just someone who goes from eating at McDonald’s to eating at KD [Kosher Delight]. Everyone, no matter how “frum”, can and should be a Baal Teshuva.

Some parents worry when their children become “frummer”. We know that you are a very level-headed person who can tell the difference between true growth in Yiddishkeit and a lot of the “Shtus” out there that people pretend is being “frum”. You also know that Frumkeit is not just on the outside, but also the type of person you are and how you represent Yiddishkeit to other Jews and even non-Jews.

We look forward to watching your continued growth into a true Bas Torah.


Abba & Mommy

On Marrying Off Another Daughter

With much appreciation to Hashem we saw the marriage of our second daughter last month, just a little over a year after our first daughter was married. Last year when I wrote here about the marriage of our first daughter I wrote in the comment section, ” Stay tuned, my next daughter will be going a more “Yeshivish” route, which could prove more challenging.” Well I’m very happy to report that the only real challenge was to some of my pre-conceived notions. Here’s the story…

About a year ago, just a little before Pesach, our then 18-year-old daughter who was still in her post high school year of seminary approached us with trepidation. She wanted our permission to begin dating after Pesach. Since she is a Bais Yaakov girl this clearly meant that she could theoretically get married before the summer and before she even turned 19.

Prior to this my thinking was that she should begin dating a year later. She was going to be attending a one-year program in Jerusalem where she would learn computer graphics and web design. My rationale was that if she got married toward the end of the following year she would be in a better position to help support her husband in learning.

Of course she pulled the Aliyah guilt card. She said that since we put her at a competitive disadvantage by bringing her to, what she always jokingly refers to as, a third world country in the middle of a hot desert, I should let her get a head start by starting the dating process early. She also felt that another disadvantage was that she was looking for an American Yeshiva boy who wanted to settle in Israel. (Something, which in the end may have actually been an advantage.) Compelled by her logic and our Jewish guilt my wife and I agreed. We also knew that just getting the process started would take some extra time here due to our smaller network.

After Pesach we put together her Shiddach resume (I kid you not), started putting out feelers and talking to Shadchaniot (matchmakers). In the end things didn’t really get rolling until the end of the summer with her first date occurring in September.

Knowing that the dating process could be relatively short and having heard some horror stories, we made it a priority to meet the boy on the first date. Since we live in Beit Shemesh and most of the boys are learning in Jerusalem it is not uncommon for girls to go to Jerusalem for their dates. In a scene out of a Woody Allen movie we arranged that my wife and I would meet the boy first while our daughter waited in the car for the green light. So here was this poor yeshiva boy sitting in a hotel lobby being grilled by his date’s parents. We gave the go-ahead. After several dates they decided it was not a match.

In December we got the name of a young man from my daughter’s seminary principal. I was given two references to call. One was a Rebbe of his from Mir who turned out to be the brother of a close friend of ours. The other, the Rosh Yeshiva at the yeshiva where he was currently learning and working as a dorm counselor, was a Rebbe of mine 27 years ago when I learned in Ohr Somayach for a short time. Things were looking good.

Their first date was in early January. Our young man had tickets to go back to America in mid-January. After the second date he cancelled his tickets. Now keep in mind, when my daughter began dating I told her I had a hard rule that she couldn’t get engaged in less than two months of dating. After all it was important for her and us to get to know her potential spouse. Well, Mr. Tough Guy over here ended up giving them permission to get engaged after just three weeks!

It’s not just that I’m a softy and I caved. Our new son-in-law did few key things that allowed us to feel comfortable. For the first date, instead of making us schlep to Jerusalem, he rented a car and came out to pick up our daughter. After another of their dates he came back with her to the house and sat and schmoozed with us. And one Motzei Shabbos he came for a Melava Malka with our whole family. Insightfully, one of the things that the Shadchanit saw in this match, aside from the compatibility of the couple, was that the young man would fit nicely with our entire family; BT’s, MO’s and all. Something to keep in mind when you’re in the “Parsha”.

They got engaged on January 24th and the wedding was March 21st. During that time we got to see that our daughter had found a terrific young man who will make a wonderful husband. Once again we were fortunate to have gotten great Machatanim (in-laws) who are well known and respected and who are very supportive of their children living in Eretz Yisroel.

The wedding was magnificent and very Leibedik (spirited). (You can see pictures and a short video at www.lipkinfamily.com.) We feel very blessed and thankful to Hashem, and we pray that our children will build a Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisroel, and as I always add, B’Yisroel!

The Debate

On a recent Saturday night, a local organization in my community held what has become an annual debate. These debates are a highlight of the year. Generally, there are two debates; one serious and one humorous. This year’s serious debate dealt with the following proposal:

“This house believes that the insularity of the Anglo community in Bet Shemesh is detrimental both to that community and to the wider Israeli society.”

In the last few years this has become somewhat of a contentious issue for our community. The modern city of Bet Shemesh dates back to the beginning of the Medina. For about 40 years it remained a moderately sized, mainly Sephardic community. In the early 90s, thanks mostly to a very ambitious real estate agent, a new development sprang up as, what was billed, an “Anglo” community. It was to be a religious Zionist neighborhood where people from America, Great Britain, Australia, etc. could have an easier absorption among a larger Israeli population.

Well the place took off. (And this doesn’t even include Ramat Bet Shemesh.) In our little “Sheinfeld” neighborhood (named for the builder) there are many hundreds of families and a half a dozen shuls. In the last 5 years, thanks to Nefesh B’Nefesh and the large influx of Americans, the neighborhood has become overwhelmingly Anglo. My shul, for example, has about 75 families and I am hard pressed to think of more than 5 who are “Israeli”.

For many of us, it has been incredibly easy absorbing into such an environment. Yet some of the “pioneers” are decidedly disappointed that the community, which they had thought would have a mix of Anglos and Israelis, has turned out to be so heavily Anglo.

The proponents in the debate made several points that one would expect to hear. They argued that our children’s language development is being hampered, their ability to themselves absorb into larger Israeli society will be affected, that we as a whole are not contributing to Israeli society, and that we are making those few Israelis who live among us feel like outsiders. On the whole they argued that this is not the picture of Aliyah and absorption for which they had hoped.

The opponents made some points that also touched on some issues we have discussed in this forum. The main thrust of their argument was that this insularity actually is a benefit in that it allows us to maintain many of the positive religious and American values that we want to pass on to our children and preserve for ourselves. Another benefit is that, though it is true our children’s Hebrew language development will suffer slightly, their English language skills will remain at a much higher level and this is a huge advantage in today’s global economy where English is the driving force. A very succinct take-away line was, “While it is a mitzvah to live in Israel, it’s no mitzvah be an Israeli.”

As Baalei Teshuva we bring certain things to the table, like a greater sensitivity to non-Jews, a greater tolerance of other races and cultures, and a greater appreciation for the value of worldly knowledge. So while it’s important for us to live in solid, frum communities we may also want to inculcate our children with some of the positive values and ideas from our “galus” lives.

In the end, as the opponents in the debate made clear, the children of our Bet Shemesh neighborhood will do just fine. They will learn Hebrew, (most will) defend their country, find gainful employment, and become contributing members of the greater society as upstanding Torah Jews. But in addition, they will hopefully bring with them a little something extra that only could have been gleaned from a little Anglo oasis such as Sheinfeld.

Likewise, our FFB children will continue to integrate into whatever type of community fits them best. Hopefully, they too will bring with them that little extra value that only our past experiences could have provided them with.

Back to Yeshiva

Before we go back to Yeshiva I need to give you a little background. Though my parents were not frum, for various reasons they sent me to a Yeshiva day school for first through eighth grades. After eighth grade it was left up to me whether I would travel by train for an hour each way to get to the nearest Yeshiva high school or go to the local public school. I opted for public school and it was probably a wise decision, as during those four years I became frum with the help of NCSY and I also met the girl who was to become my wife.

On a spiritual “high” from a Kumsitz during senior year I decided that I would attend YU. That did not work out so well and I ended up transferring to NYU after freshman year. During the summer between my junior and senior years of college I spent 3 months at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, and with that, came the end of my formal learning.
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The Situation

Here is a letter Menachem wrote to his friends and family last week about “the situation” in Israel which he offered to share with us on Beyond BT.

I’ve been debating whether or not to write something about the current “situation” here in Israel, so if you actually receive this you’ll know which side won the debate.

As you’ve noticed, probably thankfully, these updates have become fewer and farther between. This was not because I don’t miss you, it’s just because life had gotten pretty routinized and there just wasn’t much to write about. One of the reasons I hesitate to write now is that on the whole I’ve attempted to keep things positive and a-political. Well I guess I could just write some fluffy stuff and ignore the fact that those moon bats North of the border are using us for target practice, but since you probably read the paper or listen to the news occasionally you’d realize I was trying to hide something.
Read more The Situation

Baalei Teshuva and Aliyah

It is no secret that the vast majority of Jews who make Aliyah by choice are orthodox. I have also noticed that Baalei Teshuva are a well represented subgroup among Olim. Of course, neither of these observations should be surprising. As orthodox Jews we know that our religious existence is incomplete while not living and serving G-d in our homeland. As Baalei Teshuva the process of Aliyah has much in common with our Teshuva process.

Like becoming frum, making Aliyah requires one to turn his life upside down and to make enormous changes based on, what is essentially, a leap of faith. Certainly, people can and will list dozens of tangible benefits as dividends of both of these endeavors. While some of these dividends may accrue to us, in the long run we know that we are doing these things simply because we believe that they are the right thing to do.

The search for truth that brings many Baalei Teshuva to Yidishkeit does not end when they become observant. Many BTs get “hooked” with a good kumsitz, torah codes, or rationalist explanations for the mitzvos. Once inside we come to understand that the bottom line is that we do what do because we believe that G-d gave us the Torah and its divine message is beyond our attempts to rationally explain it. This realization is what allows us to weather the many challenges we face. (Such as high tuition bills!)
Read more Baalei Teshuva and Aliyah

Being Proud of Your Past

I become orthodox in high school. I actually had the opportunity to go to a yeshiva high school after 8th grade before I was frum, but that would have meant a one-hour commute on the train in each direction. So, to my 8th grade rebbie’s chagrin, I opted instead for public high school. Given the caliber of students and the general atmosphere of the yeshiva I would have attended, I don’t know that I would have become frum had I gone there.

However, almost from the day I stepped into my public high school I started feeling my 8 years of yeshiva day school education trying to surface. That feeling combined with a two night a week learning program taught by one of my frum friend’s fathers, and my involvement with NCSY nurtured my teshuva process. I am, to this day, happy with my decision to go to public high school. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish there and appreciate the sensitivity I received from being exposed to, and yes even being friends with, a diversity of people.
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On Marrying Off a Daughter

Three weeks ago my wife and I reached a new milestone. Our eldest child was married. I had always pictured that I’d be like Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when this time arrived; nervous, sad about “losing” my daughter, and suspicious of this new person taking her away. In reality I felt none of these emotions. I truly feel like I’ve gained a son and not that I’ve lost a daughter.

While I didn’t have a lot of the “Father of the Bride” type emotions, I did feel a sense of relief and pride. As a BT raising a frum child I often worried if I was going to be able to get this “religion thing” passed on to future generations. As my children got older and I saw them developing strong, and unique, religious sensibilities of their own this concern of mine definitely waned. Still, seeing my daughter, at this stage of independence, covering her hair, studying and implementing the laws of taharat hamischpacha, and setting up a kosher home I felt a strong sense of accomplishment.
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Inconsistencies in the Process of Growth

While I was in the process of becoming frum I found that many of my friends and family suddenly became big Talmidei Chachomim (Torah Scholars). They started noticing and commenting on discrepancies in my religious behavior. They never said it explicitly, but the implication was that I was being hypocritical. I fielded such questions as, “Why don’t you wear your yarmulka at school like you do at home?”, “How can you eat in the restaurant if they serve x, y, and z also?”, “How come you walk to shul and then come home and watch TV?”, etc.

As we know, for most of us becoming observant is a process. It’s not like upgrading a computer to a new operating system where suddenly you have all of this new information and features. (Actually, that can be a tough process too, but you get the idea.) There is a lot of information to assimilate and major behavioral changes to implement. In retrospect it can be amusing to look back on some of the inconsistencies we exhibited as our growth unfolded.
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