My brother recently has been searching for answers to the age-old questions. Why is life so difficult? Why is he faced with challenges? Why don’t things turn out the way he wants them to? He also wonders about God and religion and his place in the world.
He’s been asking a lot of people these questions. He asked the rabbi of the Reform congregation that my family attends; he talks to my parents and grandparents about it. And recently, he asked me.
He came to me specifically wanting to know why I became Orthodox. My process to becoming frum happened quite a while ago; he was young and didn’t remember the details, but he was certainly puzzled by it considering I’m the only Orthodox Jew he knows (he lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where there is what can definitely be considered a dearth of Orthodox Jews around).
I gave him a brief overview of my journey and process; I told him that, for me, Orthodox Judaism seemed to offer meaning and purpose to an existence that I previously couldn’t figure out, that seemed random and disjointed.
He was interested in this, and I encouraged him to ask me questions whenever he wants. However, I didn’t push it. To me, if he wants to become Orthodox, he should do it on his own. I can show him by example what it is to be an Orthodox Jew, and I do that by trying to be kind, caring, and open and hopefully by acting as a kiddush Hashem in my interactions with him. By showing him that I am happy with the life I have chosen for myself, and that I don’t regret leaving my Reform background behind, despite the additional restrictions that Orthodox Judaism entails.
I feel that choosing an Orthodox lifestyle is a difficult decision, and not one that should be made under any kind of pressure, especially for someone like my brother who is living in a place where there is no supportive community. I can hope that he might make the decision to learn more about Torah, and I will help in any way that I can, but I have a hard time believing that I should push it.
Maybe I’m wrong and it’s my responsibility to attempt to mekarev him – what do you think?