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Important question...... (by SmileySimcha123)

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#1 living2learn



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Posted 06 December 2011 - 12:55 PM

SmileySimcha123 Posted - 26 October 2011 16:11

So, I grew up in a not so observant home.And just recently, we've become more observant. But, my other family members aren't really as connected to the mitzvots as I am. How do I continue to grow spiritually without them thinking i'm too religious or too obsessed? And how would you recommend bringing them up to where they need to be concerning following Torah more. Your replies would mean a lot :)

Simcha C :)

living2learn Posted - 06 November 2011 8:40

First off - mazal tov on your steps towards more observance! That’s every person’s job in life, each person on their own level, and in their own way, and it’s a struggle for everyone. It’s not meant to be easy, and so good for you for taking steps forward!

In terms of YOU –
Take small steps. “Nichnas mahehr, yotzai mahehr” – what goes in quickly, goes out quickly. Take the time to make whatever you take on yourself part of you. (This is something that’s very hard for me, because I want to go in leaps and bounds, but trust me, it’s not worth the results.)
And this will help to answer your first question. In all honesty, you can’t come up with a magic solution to alter your family’s perception of you and your religious observance. They may very well give you a hard time. There are many reasons why this might be so, among them:
- A lack of understanding (which also may translate into ‘caring about you’ – for example, I saw another post of yours about your mom wanting you to wear jeans to keep warm in the winter… because she honestly cares about you!)
- A lack of wanting to understand (vastly different than the previous one, because nothing, and absolutely nothing that you say or do will be able to change their opinion because they simply are not interested)
- Feeling threatened (that you’re moving forward, and they’re not; that you might expect from them more than they are able to do… (“bring them up to where they need to be”))
- Doubting your sincerity (which is sort of an extension of feeling threatened – “you think you’re so frum? If we make fun of you enough, let’s see how frum you are. Let’s see how you stick to your guns.)

The question is how you react when you are challenged. If you are truly comfortable with what you are doing (even if it’s something new – but it was a real, true decision on your part to take a step forward), then it becomes much, much easier to not react defensively, which is an automatic recipe for a fight. If you react calmly, knowledgeably (when necessary and appropriate) and confidently, and stick to it, you will get rid of 1 and 4 (and possibly 3), and earn respect. If you run into 2, then with this approach, you will end up with internal defenses – you may still inwardly cringe because you “wish they wouldn’t,” but it won’t make you doubt yourself in terms of whether you’re doing the right thing or not. (and if you do end up feeling a bit uncomfortable, it’s ok – I remember once going to the beach in my long cover-up, something I not only felt was the right thing to do, but felt 200% comfortable with, and some relatives made some sort of comment, and it didn’t quite take away my conviction that “this is right,” but it did make me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Which just serves to be a lesson – think before you talk; you don’t want to be that person who makes someone else feel that way!)
In terms of 3 – and just in general – there is a very fine balance that has to be found, here. You don’t want to feel, get, or sound defensive. You don’t either want to feel, sound, or give off the impression of condescension, “I’m better than you.” I once heard a speaker say to imagine certain scenarios that you just know are going to come up, before they do. Play it out in your mind – they’re going to say that, I’m going to feel this, I’m going to want to react in such and such a way, and formulate the ending that you really want/know is right before it ever happens, so that when you find yourself in a situation, you can pull it off gracefully. Again, it isn’t magic – I have done this many times, and sometimes you still end up reacting angrily, or nastily, or whatever. But practice makes perfect. Practice in front of the mirror if you want!
And in general – use your head! Don’t flaunt what you’re doing if you don’t have to – do things in a quiet and orderly way, and don’t call attention to yourself to begin with. Don’t throw things in their faces, and you’ll avoid a whole host of problems to begin with.

The best way to help your family grow is to be a good example. Your job is not to change them, but to change yourself, no matter how frustrating it may be to watch them, no matter how much you think they “should” be able to do and “could” be doing. You could, if you would like, and if they are interested, involve them in YOUR OWN growth – invite them to learn something TOGETHER with you (i.e. a halacha sefer, or a hashkafa sefer, on any number of topics, depending on which suits you, them, and everyone together the best). Aside from many other points, people don’t like to feel like someone is forcing them to change, especially not when they feel like the other person is looking down on them for it. I once read a quote “people love to learn, but hate to be taught.” (Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein, aleha hashalaom, used to begin her talks by saying (sincerely – that’s the trick) “I’m talking to myself, and allowing you to listen in.”) They are going through a growth process, just as you are – you have your difficulties, they have theirs. You may not all end up at the same destination – and that’s ok, too.

Hatzlacha rabba – you should have much success in your path upwards!

SmileySimcha123 Posted - 06 November 2011 15:56

I didn’t think anyone was going to answer. :P Thank you so much for the advice! I appreciate it! Your post really helped me to figure out some things I was battling with. My mom is still wanting me to wear jeans, ( I just got hand me downs and jeans were in the pile. She said ‘G-d blessed you with them, now wear them! Even if you have to wear them just on the weekends. What do I do? Say ‘NO!’ ? I know how important obedience is….) I thought she was getting better but it didn’t happen yet. Small steps is definitely what I’m trying to take! Although I want to get where I’m going much quicker. It is very much a challenge to live in two separate worlds when it comes to my family. Half my family doesn’t keep kosher, so to them its very weird what I am doing. But like you said when you were at the beach, “this is right” and that’s how I feel ( I was afraid I’d run into that challenge at the beach this summer…but I didn’t go this year ) I do love my Mother and value her opinion but when it comes to tznius we are very different. I really with I could snap my finger and my whole family would be more observant but that obviously wont’ happen. I feel that at home, I have no boundaries and it feels good to have direction and rules to follow to keep myself (and others) out of trouble. I do realize all this “ I want you to wear pants” is because she doesn’t want me to freeze :P . But the way I look at It is: If Jews in hot ,hot Israel can wear black and white or all black, long sleeves and hats or if Jews in NY can wear the same in the cold winter (and snow.) , so can I. If they have enough courage and are willing to sacrifice their own comforts for Hashem and Torah so can I. Thank you so much! I’m so glad someone answered me! Please rely soon - Simcha (:

Hi Simcha (I don’t know if that’s your name, or just your screenname, but either way, I love that name!) –

First of all, what do you mean by “I know how important obedience is”? Are you talking in terms of kibbud av v’em – respecting your parents according to the Torah? Are you talking in terms of in your house, your parents always taught you that obedience is paramount?

Regarding the mitzvah from the Torah of kibbud av v’em – you are not required to listen to your parents if what they are telling you to do is against the Torah’s wishes. HOWEVER – this should not be taken out of context!!! If your mother tells you to do something which is considered a melacha, and therefore forbidden, on Shabbos, you are not supposed to follow her instructions. This does NOT mean that there is room for disrespect in any way, nor that you should not be accommodating where and when possible. So, in answer to your question, no, you should not say “no!” You might try something like, “Mom, I hear where you are coming from, and it’s hard for me to disagree with you – I have made a decision to live according to Jewish law, and I don’t wear pants anymore. I know you care about me, and if you’re worried about me being cold, I’ll be happy to wear leggings or tights under my skirt to keep warm.”

I don’t know you, I don’t know your mother – do you think, knowing your situation, that it might help to find a good, calm time to sit down with your mother and have an open, honest talk with her? About what you’re feeling, where you’re coming from and where you’re heading, and to make it clear that you still love her and the rest of the family, that you aren’t trying to change them, but that you feel this is important and something that you really want to do, that will make you happy. Etc. (Very important during a talk like that not to get defensive, accuse, attack, be judgmental…)

Simcha, what you really need, what would be of tremendous help to you right now, is someone to talk to – someone real, not virtual. A rabbi, a teacher, a mentor, an older friend – someone you respect and look up to, who can guide you in terms of your own religious growth as well as your relationship with your family. Do you have anyone like that? Can you think of anyone who might be able to become that person for you? What kind of school are you in right now?

I'll be happy to continue advising you in whichever way I can - just it's not the most ideal scenario for more reasons than one: I don't know you or your situation personally, I don't have the qualifications to be any more than a sounding board and advisor just from my own experiences (as opposed to being able to guide you as I described above), and I have time constraints which won't allow me to be on the computer constantly to be there when you need someone - not to mention the fact that before either of us can post, it needs to go through the moderator, which takes time. I'm not trying to push you away, but I do think that someone like what I described above could be very helpful to you. Do you agree?

Wishing you much success!

#2 SmileySimcha123



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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:47 PM

I posted this in the other spot, so i'm just re - posting here (:

Thanks for the reply, and yes, Simcha is my name (: In terms of the obedience thing, I do mean respecting my mom (my father lives out of the state) according to the Torah. It's just very hard for me to talk to her about Jewish law because she considers it all too strict. Strict as in : You can't do this, can't eat that, don't wear this, and so on. But back to the jeans,sorry if i'm everywhere, she is getting a little better concerning them. She understands what I would really want to do, but still wants me to wear jeans. I literally have like two bags of jeans in my closet! But the good thing is that right now, where i live, it's not too cold yet! But I do ear leggings and tights underneath to keep warm. What you said about the whole mentor thing is a good idea. I know someone who is older than me and her family is very observant. But she is almost in college! So it's difficult. But, I see her often, and know I can trust her. Also, i'm in an area that doesn't have a very much Jewish 'presence', so to speak. AND on top of that I no longer go to public school because it was too much of a bad influence on me. So now i'm home schooled with other children and no other teenagers, except the girl i know whose almost in college. So, there's a lot going on! I know websites like this can be very difficult because, yeah, it's like talking to a computer and not a person so i see what your saying! I appreciate all your guidance and advice! I wish I knew more people like you! Thanks so much - Simcha