HaShem, This Wasn’t Part of the Deal!

Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Cross Currents

The post that appeared here several days ago from the father of two Baalei Teshuvah fits nicely with a concept that I have explored recently with a relatively-new BT. Indeed there should be no power struggle, no “right” or “wrong,” but parents may not see it that way.

All parents attempt to bring up their children in their own image. This is only natural — while they expect their children to explore their own careers and “play to their own strengths,” they also have certain basic expectations. A Jewish family belonging to a Reform Temple naturally expects their children to become and marry Reform Jews. Whether the child brings home a non-Jewish significant other or becomes observant, either way it can be a disappointment — and as “David Shub” intimated, often it is the latter option that is more disturbing. And in both of these cases, the children themselves may have no idea how upset their parents will be.
Read more HaShem, This Wasn’t Part of the Deal!

On Relating to Our Non-Religious Family

By Gail Pozner

My family and I recently arrived back from a family “simcha” – the bas mitzvah in a reform temple of our niece. Being frum for 20 years and having made no dent at all in the religious interest of our respective families, I have come to the realization that the most my husband and I can hope for in terms of impacting them is making a Kiddush Hashem; and that is no little thing. It is one of the reasons why we were created. So for those out there who share the inability to be mekarev our families: how to create a Kiddush Hashem in the midst of non-religious family and old friends? I’ll share a few experiences we’ve had over the years.
Read more On Relating to Our Non-Religious Family

You Used to Be So Much Fun – Part 2 – Audio Post

Today we are posting the audio file for Part 2 of Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg’s lecture at the Life After Teshuva conference, titled “You Used to be So Much Fun – Relating to Non-Religious Family and Friends”.

Click on the link to listen to Part 2. Here is the link if you missed hearing Part 1. (To download either audio file to your computer, click with the right mouse button on the link and select Save Target As)

Here is a summary of Part 2, but please take the time to listen to the audio file.
Read more You Used to Be So Much Fun – Part 2 – Audio Post

The Bris Party

What To Do, What To Do?

Since our son’s bris was to fall on the first day of Succos, we called a posek to ask how we should deal with the fact that our not-yet-frum relatives would most likely be making the trip to attend the bris on Yom Tov.

His first suggestion: Stage a mock bris. Even though I was trained as an actor, I did not think that even Sir Lawrence Oliver could have pulled that one off. I deferred and requested another suggestion.
Read more The Bris Party

You Used to Be So Much Fun – Part 1 – Audio Post

Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, Menahel, Yeshiva Ohr Eliyahu (LA) gave a number of lectures at the Life After Teshuva conference in Passaic in 2001. Today we are making available part 1 of “You Used to be So Much Fun – Relating to Non-Religious Family and Friends”.

You can click here to listen. (To download the audio file to your computer, click with the right mouse button on the link and select Save Target As)

Here are some of the main points from part 1:

In his introduction, Rabbi Goldberg tells us that he’s not discussing halachic issues. And he is not going to talk about how to change our friends and relatives.

We have to look at what can we do to improve these relationships. What have we done to be part of the problem? We can’t talk our way out of problems that we might have behaved our way into.
Read more You Used to Be So Much Fun – Part 1 – Audio Post

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Many of you might remember the classic Spencer Tracy – Katharine Hepburn film of that title in which liberal, social activist parents are shocked by their daughter’s choice of fiancé, a black man played by Sidney Portier. The point of the film is the parents’ hypocrisy, but I’ve often said that the true test of liberal Jewish tolerance would not be a daughter’s choice to marry a black man but her choice to marry a black-hatted one. Baruch Hashem, my parents passed the test.
Read more Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

My Non-Jewish Father and My Oh-So-Jewish Mother

When I first became frum, I wanted my parents to completely embrace my new lifestyle and take on the same things I was taking on but they were pretty much indifferent. I later moved away to a predominantly BT neighbourhood where people shared stories with me of parents who had disowned them or continuously fought with them about their frumkeit. I began to appreciate my parents’ indifference to my life. They didn’t have to be excited or angry or anything special about my new life. I was okay with that. I realized how great they both were in that they let me make my own choices and were happy if I was happy.

My mother’s biggest issue in the whole thing came very recently when she realized I didn’t have a TV. She actually cried over it and offered to buy me one. Read more My Non-Jewish Father and My Oh-So-Jewish Mother

Dealing with Non Observant Parents

This issue is one in which I would be shocked if there were not a multitude of approaches and results. However, I think that the best advice that I could give be would be a set of caveats that may or not work for you:

1) Your parents will respect you when they see that you are dedicated and sincere and that Torah Judaism is your way of life, as opposed to a cult. If your parents become frum with you, that is fantastic. On the other hand, if they don’t reach that level, you have to work for their tolerance of the fact that you and your family will be living a different way of life than themselves and your siblings and still maintain a relationship with them, even if it appears that they barely tolerate your lifestyle and possibly overlook conduct by your siblings that a Torah Jew would not approve of in any manner. Read more Dealing with Non Observant Parents

The Parent Trap

Why are we always placating, mediating, even apologizing?

Why do we have to feel like we’re the ones mucking up family tradition?

Why do we always have to explain how it’s really not so hard or different to do things our way?

Why must we look the other way or come up with rationalizations for our kids when our relatives dress inappropriately/kvetch about how the mechitza demeans women/run to the bathroom to answer a cellphone on Shabbos/mix up the milchigs and fleishigs in the kitchen/ask for the billionth time what could possibly be wrong with taking the kids to the movies/insist that their level of Judaism is the “normal” way to be.
Read more The Parent Trap

Parents and the Big Picture

The Big Picture always gives me fuel to energize my life. Drawing away from the detailed mundane facts of the situation, and looking at it in higher terms always helps me pull out of my cramped, subjective position, into one where I feel I can (at least somewhat) participate in the injunction “Let Us Make Man” (which according to Rabbi Twersky, is Hashem speaking to man himself about the dynamic, Divine partnership that we have together with Him in creating our lives).

So, a part of this picture is that Hashem has blessed us all with parents who have given us amazing gifts and strengths. Read more Parents and the Big Picture

Appreciating Parents as a Foundation for Growth

One of the meanings of Yisrael is that it is a contraction of the words yashar (straight) and G-d’s name, kEl. I once heard this explained in the name of Rabbi Rosenberg z”l, the founder of Machon Shlomo, that one can only truly draw close to G-d by traveling in a straight path. This can be accomplished only when one has a clear recognition and appreciation of where they are starting from. Kibud av v’eim (honoring parents) is a mitzvah of great importance and a foundation of the Torah. It is also a good way to minimize friction in one’s family life. But somewhat aside from that, when fulfilled properly, kibud av v’eim, is actually a great means to succeed in one’s internal journey toward Torah observance. When there is a lack of feeling of kavod (honor) for an individual’s parents, it is impossible that they will be able to proceed through emotional challenges of the t’shuvah process and develop a healthy sense of belonging in the Frum world. (I don’t mean a failure to uphold the halachos in the Shulchan Aruch, but rather a feeling of disdain for one’s upbringing or lack of gratitude to one’s parents.)
Read more Appreciating Parents as a Foundation for Growth

Dealing with Parents

Don’t use me as an example. My case is exceptional. My parents after many years became Shomer Shabbos in-spite of me and more because of my wife and children. Children can have that kind of impact on relatives. I witnessed an irreligious grandfather, a holocaust survivor, being told by his little five year old frum grandchild, “Grandpa, where’s your yarmulke?” He rushes to put one on! “Grandpa, you didn’t make a brocho!” He asks for coaching on which brocho. Only a child could have gotten him to do those things and with that much joy! Read more Dealing with Parents

How to Live a Really Long Time

Ba’alei T’shuvos recognize that a Torah lifestyle, more than any other lifestyle enables a Jew to grow and achieve one’s potential.

Many a well-meaning and concerned parent of a BT, however, has felt threatened by their BTs newfound commitment to all-things-Torah and has feared losing their child to that which the BT holds so dear.

The Halachos and mitzvah observance that BTs embrace, parents often shun. Whereas a BT might yearn for boundaries, parents of BTs often eschew them. This can often strain the BT/parent-of-a-BT relationship. Read more How to Live a Really Long Time

Parents and Community

When I first started becoming frum, I was away at school, and I did not see my parents for the entire semester. I was nervous to tell them about my change of lifestyle, but I had to prepare them, lest I come home and they wonder who I was, and where was their daughter? I first started by telling them that I was keeping Shabbat, and that I wouldn’t pick up the phone if they called me then. Then came kashrut, then came wearing only skirts. I was reluctant to tell them about shomer nagiah (no physical contact between unmarried people of the opposite sex), since my parents had the misconception that only ultra-Orthodox Jews keep that law.
Read more Parents and Community

Family Ties

These are excellent ideas. Thanksgiving can be very nice if kashrus isn’t a problem. Channukah and Chol HaMoed Sukkos can also be nice days for reunions as well. I saw an interesting book that addressed these issues . The approximate title was “What Do You Mean You Can’t Eat At My House ?!” Some may like the solutions in this book, others may not.