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Marching to a Different Tune

Riki Goldstein

In communities where the width of a hat brim speaks volumes about affiliation, children’s adherence to the myriad minhagim of one’s family is a point of pride for many parents. What happens when a son chooses a path in avodas Hashem that’s miles from the path his parents are on?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Like many Modern Orthodox American families, the Halls* sent their eldest to learn in Israel for a year after high school. But even though Daniel Hall attended a Modern Orthodox yeshivah and his roommates wore jeans, when he arrived back home, he was wearing a black suit and hat. “I think he changed his attire to chareidi the minute he got there,” says Mrs. Sylvie Hall. This was no passing phase for Daniel. “A lot of kids come home from Israel very intense, but then it falls away,” says Sylvie. But Daniel’s religious leaning strengthened. He asked to go back for a second year of learning. “We couldn’t pay for another year — it was our next son’s turn to go,” continues Mrs. Hall. “Daniel spoke to the rabbis and they allowed him to stay on for free. Our next son went to Israel, and despite his different personality, he was drawn to the same lifestyle.” The Halls now enjoy three families of lovely chareidi grandchildren — all their children were attracted to the yeshivah world. Up in Canada, Rifky’s family is firmly entrenched in a chassidic community, attending chassidish chadarim and schools. Yet when her son Yanky was in his early teens, a maggid shiur suggested the next stop for him: a litvish yeshivah with very high learning standards. “He was the only boy there with an up-hat,” Rifky says. “But he thrived. He actually became more serious, more particular with halachah. Chassidish people sometimes view someone who becomes less chassidish as ‘going modern,’ but in my son’s case it was so obvious that he had not gone down. He became more frum as he became farlitvished!” Then Yanky planned to attend a litvish yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael. “He called me one day, and said, ‘Ma… I have to ask you something.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to ask — the answer is yes.’ I had seen it coming — he wanted to change his levush [clothing]. My feeling was that this was obviously where he belonged, so why would I shlep him away from where his heart is?” It’s teenagers likeDaniel and Yanky who are most likely to make significant changes, and choose a path different than the one in which they were raised. As a youngster grows and becomes more self-aware, the world around him, with its rich variety of traditions, communities, and sub-groups, comes into focus. He realizes that the path of his parents is not the only path, and just maybe, another path would be better for him.

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