14 November 2006

Kibbud Av v'Em and the Ba'alat T'shuvah

(I must be going crazy. I could have sworn I posted this, but I can't find it on my blog. So here it is (again?) for your reading pleasure.)

How does one reconcile the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v'Em, honouring your father and mother, with the realities of the newly observant? It's one of the many difficulties facing Ba'alei T'shuva, those who were not born to it choosing to live an observant Jewish life. I live far away from my family, and my journey to orthodoxy took place primarily in between visits, so I was able to ease my parents into the quirks of kashrut and Shabbat observance. The first visit post-"awakening" I was still eating in restaurants, kosher-style. I didn't eat any meat or shellfish, and stuck to pasta and vegetables. Then I graduated to cold vegetables (oh, how I grew to love that cold salad with plain oil dressing!). This last visit, I was full-on kosher. All food had to be brought into my parents' home, wrapped in so many layers of foil, I was half-expecting to hear signals from outer space.

My parents were so accomodating; I was gratefully stunned. I was prepared to defend keeping kosher, and to have to go out and buy my own food, but Mom and Dad had paper plates, plastic utensils, and bought all the food from the local kosher market. It wound up costing them a small fortune ("never have so few eaten so little for so much" was my father's assessment, although there was a ton of food), but they didn't complain. They even were relatively understanding about our Shabbat restrictions. Mom turned off the lights on us a few times, and Dad didn't quite get the "electricity" thing ("do you need me to unlock the door?"), but all in all, it was a wonderful, gratifying experience, thank G-d.

Until it came time to talk to my sister in Israel. The only time she is available is Saturday evening, Israel time, so Mom thought she'd call my sister during the day, New York time, and I'd get on the phone with her. I tried to explain that I couldn't talk on the phone on Shabbat, but it led to a rather subdued argument, where my mother used the "it's family" line. Due only to the fact that I have with G-d's help learned so much patience these past few years, I refused to give in to my urge to yell and scream, "you don't understand!" Fortunately, the whole situation was side-stepped by my sister's suggestion that Mom call on Sunday, when my sister had a few minutes free.

Then, my parents gave us the opportunity to come for another trip, which included a long overdue visit to my non-Jewish uncle, aunt and cousins. My husband and I started excitedly planning a menu, planning what food we would need to purchase for the trip to our relatives' non-kosher home, what pot and pan we would bring, and I started looking forward to seeing cousins I hadn't seen in years, and meeting their children.

Then came the zinger: my parents want to drive to the relatives' house during the day on Shabbat. I explained that we cannot do it. I explained that there are numerous problems with travelling for hours on Shabbat, not the least of which is being in a car. I offered alternatives - we could rent a car, and join them after Havdalah. We could go to my relatives' city on Friday and find someone to host us; we could make it work. My mother just insisted we "bend the rules" - after all, "it's family."

After much discussion with my husband, and many tears, and taking into account new jobs and our financial situation, we finally decided that it was too problematic to make this journey. As disappointed as I am, I can't fight with my mother. If I can't make her understand the moral code we live by, the Torah laws that we are obligated to, through reasonable conversation, yelling and getting angry won't help. I can only hope that someday she sees that our holding to these "rules" is not meant to annoy her; it's not us being obstinate. I can only hope that my offering reasoned explanations, not losing my temper and maintaining a respectful, honouring tone with my parents is enough for Kibbud Av v'Em.

When it comes to a choice between disappointing my parents or disappointing G-d, I'm not sure what choice I'm supposed to make. It feels more right to not disappoint G-d. Someday (please G-d it should be a long time from now) my parents will no longer be with me. I pray that G-d will always be with me. No matter how hard and painful it was, I believe that I made the right choice.

08 November 2006

iPod, therefore iAm

So, Hubby's new job has some perks. A co-worker was going through the lost-n-found box, getting ready to toss some of the items. If something's been in the box for more than 2 years, the item gets tossed. Usually, the items are junky, but there was an old iPod in the pile. No one would want it because it's out of date (it's only *gasp* 512mb. iPods are now 30Gb or more.), so lost-n-found guy was just going to throw it out.

Hubby grabbed it, charged it, loaded it up with some of my favourite seminars and now I have something to do on the bus on my way to work. As soon as I find headphones that fit my ears. Earbuds just pop out. Anyone else have this problem, or do I just have weird ears?

Now, if only an IVF cycle would fall into our lap as easily...