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Lifelines: A Good Life

C. Sapir

I said no. But there weren’t many other viable options, and my parents and siblings kept urging me to reconsider. So after a while, I said yes

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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M y parents always wanted me to have a good life.

They raised me traditional, not very religious, but one thing they instilled in me was that I should always strive for a better life. They were not materialistic people, and to them, a good life did not mean having more money. Rather, it meant holding on to traditional values and living a wholesome, family-centered life.

Although we ourselves were not particularly observant, we lived in a devoutly religious environment, surrounded by people whose lives revolved around religion. By osmosis, therefore, many religious practices seeped into our lives. We prayed, but not every prayer, and not necessarily at the designated times. We kept the holidays, but didn’t fast on fast days. Like everyone around us, we dressed extremely modestly.

Some of my siblings became more observant as they grew older, and they would exhort me to be more scrupulous about religion as well. But I wasn’t interested. “I don’t like your G-d,” I complained. “He’s always angry.”

I was very bothered by all the talk of hell, and by all the dire warnings about how G-d was going to punish anyone who does not follow His dictates — which included most of the world.

From a young age, I would look up at the sky and say to G-d, “Tell me what you want from me.” G-d’s presence was always very real to me, even if I had no interest in keeping many of the laws that my more devout peers and siblings adhered to.

My life changed dramatically when I was 11. At that point, in search of a better life, my parents moved our family across the world, to St. Louis, Missouri, and I began attending a local public school. All of a sudden, modesty was no longer something to be taken for granted. My parents, who had never before spoken to me about the issue, had to explain that even if my friends were wearing shorts and miniskirts, that kind of dress was unacceptable in our house. I was cautioned repeatedly not to have a boyfriend, and I knew that when the time came, my parents were the ones who would find me a suitable husband.

Our family’s values were completely foreign to those of American society, yet my parents drilled into us that although we were lucky to live in this prosperous country, we would never accept its pervasive secular values and loose moral standards, even if it meant we’d always be different from the people around us.

My father is a strong believer in education and wanted me to have a career. After finishing high school, therefore, I went on to college and earned a degree in accounting and business, graduating magna cum laude.

When I was 20, my parents arranged a match for me with a man who, like our family, was traditional and at a similar level of religious observance. He was a doctor, nine years my senior, and after meeting him, I said no. But there weren’t many other viable options, and my parents and siblings kept urging me to reconsider. So after a while, I said yes. 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 703)

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