Thursday, November 02, 2006

Parshas Lech Lecha

So I'll start out by saying that I'll be in Woodmere this Shabbos. To most, that wouldn't be a big deal. But, for someone that's never been to NJ or NY for Shabbos, it is a huge deal. It will be sad losing my title as the only frum Jew who's never spent a Shabbos in NJ/NY. Feel free to say hi if you see me; although, I don't think I've reached celebrity blogger status day. Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming.

Sefer Bereishis, 12:1:

"Ad-noy said to Avram, "Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, [and go] to the land that I will show you."

The Nesivos Shalom comments that this process of "leaving" is out of order. He explains that if one wants to leave home, first he must leave his (fathers) house, then his birthplace (a smaller locale), and then finally his "land". However, in our verse, the pasuk lists his "land first", followed by his birthplace, ending with his fathers house. Why is this out of order?

Explains the Nesivos: Avraham Avinu, in this journey to become the first Ba'al Teshuva (my term), was completely leaving everything he had known before. He was leaving not only the place where he had grown up, but also the person he was up until this point. He goes on to explain the order of the pasuk as each of the terms relate to different levels of bad traits, in ascending order. First in the pasuk is "m'artzecha"; this term is used to describe those bad traits that one learns from the people "of the land". These traits are the easiest to remove onesself from - usually, when one changes his surroundings, these traits wilt away. Next, the pasuk lists "m'moladat'cha"; this term is used to describe bad traits learned from ones family (ie, siblings). Often, isn't possible to move away from your family, so these traits often go with you whereever the family moves to. These traits, which have been engrained over years of living with family, are much harder to uproot. Finally, the Torah lists "mibais avicha"; this term is used to describe those bad traits which are taught directly from your parents. These are the hardest traits to get rid of, because we view our parents as teaching figures, and take what they say to heart much more than siblings or friends.

Thus, the pasuk is detailing the step-by-step process of removing bad traits from one's personality. Interestingly, it's also the hierarchy that many teenage BT's face when becoming frum. The easiest people to "come out" to are your friends (non-Jewish/Jewish alike). They're most likely to be understanding, and the reality is that they probably don't even know what it's like. In fact, most of my friends barely can tell a difference on the surface level between the person that I am now and the person I was in high school ( that bad?). Next, it's more difficult, but not the most difficult, to tell one's family that he/she wants to become frum. The BT is likely to face opposition, but probably mainly out of being "weirded out" that someone who comes from the same parents is becoming frum. And finally, the hardest people to tell about becoming frum are the parents. While a good number are understanding and embracing (B"H, like mine), there are a substantial number of parents who supply opposition; opposition not out of being "weirded out", but more so out of resentment. Parents are supposed to be superior to their children; they say something, the kids do it; they are the authority. However, when a child wants to become frum, a parent often sees this as being passed in the religious domain. They go from authority to a servility of sorts.

But BT's or FFB's alike, the Torah is teaching us that in the constant quest up the mountain that is Yiddishkeit, there has to be a process. G-d was mekarev Avraham through a detailed and precise process. It's a step-by-step process, whether one is becoming frum, or whether someone is already frum but wants to do more. Do too much, and you'll fall off. I see people around that were once SO frum and probably viewed my "refusing to be the typical BT" philosophy as heresy, but tried too much too quickly, and that I am now "frummer" than. A rabbi once told me that becoming frummer is like riding up a moutain on a bike. Most people learn from this that as long as you're pedaling, you'll continue to go up, but the moment you stop, you'll fall down. However, I think it's important, within the same mashel, to learn that one can't pedal too hard or else they'll tire themselves out. Slow and steady wins the race.


Anonymous CPA said...

Very nice! It is so true. The yetzer hara is able to get to people when they move too fast. There is a process called ketanim ketanim, one should go in little steps as you mentioned.

9:52 AM, November 02, 2006

Anonymous FFB said...

We are very proud of you for venturing out to the NY metro area for shabbos. Shame your title is now gone. It was so becoming of you.

8:04 PM, November 04, 2006


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