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.
Like so many BTs, my relationship with my parents was strained by my decision to become frum.
I remember when I first started delving into observance and approached Rebbetzin Jungeris, the director of Hineni and told her that my mother was really “a handful.” I remember her response so clearly. She said, “Sweetheart, mothers aren’t handfuls…they’re blessings.” What I wanted to say back but didn’t was, “yes, you’re absolutely correct Rebbetzin, they are blessings…but you never met mine.” Just kidding, Mom.
You see, in my family boundaries are meant to be crossed. Things are said because they are felt and things are done because you want to do them. You don’t like something, you say it. You don’t agree with someone, you tell him or her. You want to do something, try and stop me. Not so much different, I guess, then your average American family.
But then again, your average American family doesn’t have to contend with Shabbos or kashrus or shomer negia (not touching girls), or for that matter anything at all pertaining to Halacha!
Parents of BTs need to deal with a whole slew of new cans and can’ts, wills and won’ts, dos and don’ts. And to their credit, most muddle through.
My parents have come to terms with many of the inconveniences of having a BT child like not being able to contact me on Shabbos, not eating in their non-kosher home, and not spending the holidays together.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that our relationship is not as close as it could be if they were also shomer Torah and mitzvos. There are just so many areas of hashgafa (world view) in which we disagree.
The challenge a BT faces is remembering that even though we may not see eye to eye with our non-frum parents, we are not excused from the mitzvah of kibud Av v’Eim, no matter how difficult it may be at times.
My mother throws a Chanukah party every year. She has it all done by a kosher caterer so that my family can attend. This year, she has invited my sister’s non-Jewish boyfriend and his parents.
We celebrate Chanukah because the Greeks wanted the Jews to all intermarry, thereby essentially eliminating Judaism from the planet. A small band of passionate Jews foiled their plans, and because of that great and miraculous victory we continue to celebrate until today.
Is it not a tad bit depressing and infuriating at the same time that I should have to light the Chanukah candles that commemorate that miracle at a party at which my sister is there with her non-Jewish boyfriend and his parents? Of course it is! Do I want to go? I do not! Will I? I will. Why? Kibud Av v’Eim.
Lfum s’chara agrah. Our sages tell us that according to the struggle…so is the reward. Length of days is the reward portended for those who honor their mother and father. Hashem gave BTs an exceedingly unique opportunity to live a really long time!