Special Note: In last week’s column, I published a letter from a ba’alas teshuva of Russian descent. She wrote that her parents, having been raised in a communist totalitarian society, were atheists. In Russia, her parents were professionals, but here in the United States, they were unable to find employment in their given fields. This made them very bitter, and was the cause of much anger in her home.
Some time ago, she read my book, ‘The Committed Life’ which prompted her to explore her Jewish faith and attend synagogue. Subsequently, she met a Torah-committed young man and she herself became shomeret mitzvot – observant. This only served to intensify the bickering in her family. Her parents expressed vehement opposition to her observance of mitzvot. She wrote that to escape the oppressive tension in her home, she was considering moving out of her parents’ apartment. She was, however, very sensitive to her parents’ feelings and didn’t wish to hurt them. Therefore, she was considering taking a studio apartment in the same building. In this way, she could have her privacy and at the same time remain close to home.
The apartment under consideration was on the third floor, while that of her parents was on the 11th, and this caused her much concern.
A Russian woman (also a secular Jew), who is much sought after in her community for her astrological readings and for her ability to relate things concerning people’s lives, told her that moving from a high floor to one that is lower would bring her bad luck. This prediction frightened her and she wondered whether there was any substance to such beliefs in Judaism.
My Dear Friend:
In reading your letter, I find two separate issues. 1) Your move from a higher to a lower floor and 2) Your relationship with your parents and fulfillment of the mitzva of kibud av v’em – honoring father and mother. Let’s tackle your first question first.
Many years ago, a young woman consulted me with a similar problem. She wanted to move from the ninth to the seventh floor. Before responding to her question, I asked when she was planning to move. ‘Two weeks from this Saturday,’ was her reply.
‘You are afraid,’ I told her, ‘to move from the ninth to the seventh floor, but you are not afraid to violate the law of G-d ? the Holy Sabbath?’
‘I’m not religious,’ she explained limply.
‘G-d did not establish His covenant only with those Jews who label themselves religious,’ I said. ‘Every Jewish soul was present at Sinai, and the Covenant stands forever and is binding on every one of us. How then can you barter it all for this hocus pocus, and spurn the Living Word of G-d?’
And to this, she had no answer.
While, Baruch Hashem, you are not in the same predicament, for you do adhere to the commandments, nevertheless, giving credence even momentarily to the predictions of this woman is to accept this very same hocus-pocus – which smacks of idolatry.
It is written, ‘Tamim ti’heyeh im Hashem Elokecha’ (Deut. 18:13) – ‘And you shall be wholehearted with the L-rd, your G-d.’ This means that we have to place our total trust in Hashem, live each minute of our lives with complete faith, and not delve into the future or pay heed to astrological signs and consult palm readers.
The Jew who believes in Hashem is aware that only G-d knows the future, and even if all signs indicate that something terrible will occur, that prediction has no validity, for ultimately, everything is in the hands of the Almighty.
According to the laws of nature, our mother Sarah and our father Abraham should not have been able to have children, but G-d mocked all those predictions and His will prevailed. So this woman’s “predictions” and “signs” are ludicrous, and a violation of the principles of our faith. Please, my dear friend, do not pay them any heed.
I find it curious that in general, people who pride themselves on having scientific minds and accept only that which logic can demonstrate will reject the teachings of Hashem, but will readily embrace superstitious jargon.
And now to the second issue – your relationship with your parents.
Your desire to pay proper respect to your father and mother is to be commended, but unfortunately, I don’t think that you will resolve anything by moving to a lower floor in your apartment house. In fact, your parents would most likely consider such a move a slap in the face. They could probably more easily cope with your moving a distance away, because at least then, you could give them a reason for your move.
For example, you might consider going to Jerusalem or New York for a few months of Torah study. On the one hand, your parents would most likely take umbrage. But, they will realize that you are making the move to study, and won’t feel as if you are escaping them. To live in the same building, albeit on different floors, sends a clear, inescapable message – ‘I can’t live in the same apartment with you!’
I do think, however, that you should attempt to explain your position to your parents. Tell them that you love them dearly, that your embrace of mitzvos is in no way a rejection of them, but rather an affirmation of your faith in HaShem. Tell them that you are indebted to them for this faith, that it is they who kept Judaism alive for you, even if their doing so was not a conscious act, but now that you have discovered Torah, there is no way in which you can ever compromise the commandments. The mitzvos are the essence and basis of all Jewish life, and while you may not be able to impose observance on them, they certainly cannot expect you to violate them either.
Explain to your parents that you are grateful to G-d that you met a young man who has been a catalyst in solidifying your Jewish commitment, and that one day you hope to establish a bayis ne’eman – a Jewish home, and give them Jewish grandchildren. Finally, I suggest that you communicate with them through a letter rather than through verbal dialogue, because unfortunately, the tension in your home is such that any exchange would most likely end up in a shouting match.
In conclusion, remember the passage ‘Tamim…’ ‘And you shall be wholehearted with the L-rd your G-d.’ Place your trust in G-d, and in that merit, may Hashem be with you.
May I take this opportunity to wish you, all our readers, and K’lal Yisrael, a Kesiva V’Chasima Tova – a blessed peaceful New Year.