Last year I wrote a post on a question my mother asked me on shomer negia and why some Orthodox Jews hold to these laws more strictly than others. This post generated some really good discussion and I’m hoping that this next post will do the same.
The question I am about to pose came from my father this time. I guess my mom took a break : ) After we got home from Kol Nidre last Yom Kippur, my dad asked me if G-d prefers someone who observes all the laws of Shabbas and kashrus yet acts immorally in dealings with people, ie in the workplace, or someone who is a good person, acts ethically in business, yet does not observe Shabbas or kashrus.
This question reminded me of a discussion that took place in a class I took at my shul a couple years ago. The topic we discusses was whether a) G-d prefers you to observe mitzvos but have no faith in G-d or to b) believe in G-d in your heart but not observe mitzvos. Initially, you would think that it is better to believe in G-d but not observe mitzvos. I know that is what I thought 2 years ago. The rabbi said the first option is better; he stated that even if you start out observing mitzvos and not believing in G-d, eventually your heart will catch up.
This is what I had in mind when my dad asked me that question. I explained that first of all, there is no easy answer to that question. I told him my opinion that G-d judges each person based on his/her potential, there is no comparison to your neighbor. I summed it up to my dad by saying that he should do the best he can with his potential, and not to worry about what goes on in other peoples’ backyards (I know, easier said than done). My parents mentioned that they would like to start lighting Shabbas candles consistently.
To summarize, I am grateful that I am able to have such honest discussions with my parents on religion. One of my main concerns about becoming more observant was that my relationship with my parents would undergo some major friction and that our relationship would suffer. With a little work on both my part and my parents’ part, it is not a concern anymore. In fact, I find that becoming more observant actually improved my relationship with my parents. It is okay to pave your own path and you can do so in a way that is true to yourself and also honors where you came from.