Posted on | December 8, 2005 | By David Linn | 4 Comments
I think it’s very important to maintain a relationship with your non-frum family members after you become frum (assuming they are not overtly hostile to you or your life decisions). Unfortunately many BTs simply write off their family members as part of their “past”. This is not only simple foolishness but also a lack of derech eretz and hakaros hatov (especially in regard to one’s parents).
I had the heartbreaking experience of my brother becoming a messianic jew. Upon receiving the letter from him informing me of his “accepting J as the Lord”, I brought it to my Rav for advice. The first thing my Rav told me was “Don’t write him off. Don’t cut the ties.”. That was probably the single most important piece of advice I ever received and it ran contrary to what I thought I would be advised to do. While this was an extreme situation, I think the same holds true, in general, when dealing with the lifestyles of our non-frum family members.
Certainly, there are going to be lines that must be drawn and issues that must be navigated (a solid Rav is crucial here). Everyone’s family is different (as someone might put it “everyone’s family is dysfunctional in different ways”). However, there are some pointers that I think apply across the board:
1. Don’t push religion on them.
2. When getting together, try to do something that everyone thinks is fun. That could be a sporting event, an amusement park, a museum, whatever.
3. Unless your family shows interest, don’t run to invite them for Shabbos (purim or chanukkah or even chol hamoed succos are much better choices and if doing so make it fun and interesting not a synopsis of the last shiur you went to). We once invited cousins to our succah for a chol hamoed succos day and they ask every year if they can come again amd these are cousins we don’t ever get together with.
4. Don’t do anything to draw unnecessary attention to yourself when with family members. (Hey, don’t do anything to draw unnecessary attention to yourself when you’re alone either but be more sensitive to your family’s feelings than your own). That means not davening mincha in the middle of the parking lot at Six Flags when you can find a more secluded area, a phone booth or some other “hiding spot”.
I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas to keep in mind. And, yes, for those of you who are wondering, my brother did leave Messianic Judaism and now is a BT and might just be reading this. If so, hey, give me a call to solidify Channukah plans at Mom’s house.