I ran into one of my elementary school teachers just the other day. I used to love seeing her at school because she was the only Jewish teacher and I also could see her at temple with her twin girls. Beautiful young women they were. I used to watch what they wore, how they did their hair, what they said and the terms they used. Girls a few years older always made an impression on me. I think it was because I am an only child, so I had to learn from somewhere. I used to envy these young ladies.
As I exchanged hellos and quickly caught her up with my life, she shared that her daughters were married and she was the grandmother of 7 children. I became excited until she went further into the fact that her daughters had converted and she was not able to see their weddings. My heart dropped.
1st, you must honor thy mother and father. Not allowing your mom into your wedding because she is Jewish and you have left the faith made me not only want to vomit, but wreak havoc! I mean what a nightmare for a woman who raised you in a warm and loving home. I cannot think of anything worse than ignoring your mother’s feelings and not allowing her to partake in such a serious event. I know that this family was close and that the woman who stood before me was a very active and loving mother; she’s nothing to avoid! Secondly, by Halacha her grandchildren were still Jewish, but they will NEVER know! These 7 children will not be taught their culture and heritage that is rich with beauty and worth.
I get angered. With the Jewish population dwindling and assimilation being such a serious subject. I stood there trying to be happy for this woman who clearly was also uncomfortable with the situation. Two days later I ran into a woman from the salon that I had previously run into my beloved teacher. She said she held my teacher as she cried on the day of her daughters wedding and how sad the whole situation is. I suddenly realized that simcha is really a view point. For her daughters, raising these kids in a loving home is a simcha. Although I am not saying these two women should be burned at the stakes for leaving their faith and mother behind, I am saying their simcha brings tears to many people’s eye. Unfortunately, these are not tears of joy, but tears of grief and anger.
I try and find a place to blame. Was it our synagogue? Maybe they did not do enough outreach. I certainly know I did not find a love for my faith through it. Was it my teacher’s lack of cultural enrichment? Maybe she herself was not taught the deep values of a Jewish home or how much prayer and culture can enrich your being. Should these young women have gone on Birthright as soon as they hit college or not been allowed to date outside their faith as teenagers? It really boggles my mind. In Judaism there is something for everyone! You just have to be proactive like anything else! You did not learn how to tie your shoe without being taught and you will not find a way to be spiritual without being taught in a myriad of ways!
Faith is a prescription and it’s dosage is whatever you make of it. Some of us like the culture. Some find it through social events or religious holidays. Some people are at the 3X daily. This very situation makes me concerned for my own children (G-d willing I ever find Mr. Right). Will I get the dose right or will I too be excluded from a wedding or have grandchildren that will never know what a joy being Jewish is?
Simcha (happiness) is all in perspective.
Be true to the streets!