Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

How to Live a Really Long Time

Posted on | December 19, 2005 | By Aryeh Leib Ecker | 6 Comments

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!

Comments

6 Responses to “How to Live a Really Long Time”

  1. michael
    December 19th, 2005 @ 10:47 am

    My story is a little different than most. I became a BT at age 14. Although I went to a Yeshiva Day School, my family wasn not frum or shomer shabbos. In fact very few of my classmates came from truely frum homes. We were traditional, kiddush Friday night, Shul Shabbos morning, some degree of kashrus, etc.

    I decided to continue my yeshiva education instead of going to public school for 9th grade. I have tremendous hakaras hatov to the yeshiva which tried very hard to get their student to go to yeshiva high school. The hope was that at a more mature stage in life they would be able to become frum.

    As the youngest in my family it wasn’t easy becoming shomer shabbos but in retrospect I owe so much to my mother, A”H.

    My father was raised in a shomer shabbos home but never received any education, my mother, A”H, had no education and was not raised in a religious home whatsoever. You know what they say, “a little knowledge is dangerous” well that was true with my dad. He felt he knew what was allowed and what wasn’t, where as my mom had no preconceived notions.

    From the day I decided to wear a yarmulka full time to the day I became shomer shabbos my mom supported me. She did everything she could to ease my way. She acted as a buffer when my dad wanted to go visit relatives on shabbos or leave the hotel after lunch on Acharon shel Pesach.

    Hashem blessed me with a mom whose love exceeded what she knew and was supportive despite knowing very little of the theology. I remember times on Shabbos I would hear my mom say in a loud voice, “Oh I can’t believe that I just turned the lights on, (by “accident”) in my room and the TV went on. And the Yankee game is on… Hmmmm and they are winning 2-1, with 2 outs in the 8th…” Somehow she recognized the sacrafices I wa making and was trying her best to help her 15 year old son.

    So when I hear the challenges others faced with their parents, I am reminded that I may never have thanked my mom for all the help and love she gave me in my road to frumkeit.

  2. David Linn
    December 19th, 2005 @ 11:10 am

    A good rule of thumb for all BTs facing issue swith their parents (what do you mean you can’t tear toilet paper, that’s ridiculous!) is to remember that we are the ones changing the rules. The same thing applies, even more so, to couples when one spouse begins taking on a higher level of observance from the other. Since we are the ones changing the rules, we have to be sensitive to the other person’s confusion, concern and consternation. That doesn’t mean we have to compromise on our values and beliefs when that is not warranted. It soes mean not being shocked when your parents don’t undrstand why you can’t carry an umbrella in a downpour and it does mean being just a bit more sensitive.

  3. Yosef
    December 19th, 2005 @ 11:59 am

    Just remember one very important rule never try to make your parents frum it will always backfire. Your parents will be drawn closer when they see your hapiness, your dedication, and eventually when you get married your beautiful Jewish kinderlach.

  4. Menachem
    December 19th, 2005 @ 2:43 pm

    “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.”

    Also, Kedoshim T’Hiyu. By going and, hopefully, being a beacon of Torah light you may never know the affect it will have on your sister.

  5. David Linn
    December 19th, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

    Good point, Menachem.

    I think it’s important to realize, and you alluded to it in your post, that you were born into your family for a reason (cause no one else could handle it! jk). It’s just as important to realize that you are where you are today because of your parents, at least in part depending on where you fall in the nature vs. nurture debate. Your parents might kick themselves if they realized that they had a hand in your becoming frum. (My brother-in-law once contemplated making a movie about parents of BTs, the intended title was “Where did we go right?”)On the other hand recognizing their part in your life choices should give you an extra push toward proper kibud av v’em (honoring one’s parents).

  6. Mordechai
    December 19th, 2005 @ 10:28 pm

    I’ve written a few articles on this subject. If anyone has any feedback, I’d appreciate it.

    They’re at http://www.beingjewish.com/family/

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