Originally Posted on Dec 11, 2006
(OK, I’m not a know-it-all, these are just some things I THINK are extremely helpful, certainly not the last word.)
1. Don’t become irreligious. Not even for a short while. Not even to get back with your old boyfriend/girlfriend for one last fling.
2. Cut yourself some slack. You can’t keep the exact same standards in all places at all times. While in Israel and in Yeshiva life is easy, keeping kosher, doing all the mitzvos is easy. Once you leave, the real test begins. You need some wiggle room.
3. Your relationships with your family members are more important than whether or not they join your brand of observance. Don’t sever ties with your family. Don’t flaunt your stringencies to “teach” them. The people who have you over for shabbos won’t travel across the world if you’re in the hospital, your family will.
4. Learn enough halacha to know when you can be lenient. Difficult situations often can be alleviated with knowledge. Learn the difference between a Torah prohibition and a rabbinic one. Learn the difference between a minhag, a chumrah, and ikkur hadin.
5. Find a Rav who is sensitive to BT situations. The Rabbis with the most halachic knowledge and clout aren’t necessarily the best judge of how to deal with irreligious family and friends. Your local Orthodox Rabbi might be a better source than the gadol hador for certain questions.
6. When you ask a Shailph that may end up with a major family rift, make sure you inform the Rav (you ask) of the consequences of your following his psak. Don’t just ask, “Is it permissible to go to an intermarriage?” Explain how not going may mean your entire family will disown you and never speak to you again. Ask “Is there any type of compromise I can make for them?”
7. Remember that nothing is a coincidence. Always question why Hashem put you in this position. Why did he pick you of all people out of the millions of uneducated Jews to come close to His holy Torah? There must be something special about you and what you offer to the already observant and the not yet observant. Fulfill your mission.