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Prioritizing Peace

Elisheva Appel

It takes forethought, inner work, and lots of goodwill to divert the focus from the differences that divide us to the ties that bind us

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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If someone’s chumrah irritates you, don’t view it as a personal preference that they’re imposing on you, advises Rabbi Miller. Instead, try to reframe the issue as if it were a life-threatening allergy — something that’s beyond the other person’s control, and that of course you’d do your best to accommodate so that you can share Yom Tov with your loved one

M ore family blowups happen on Erev Pesach than during the rest of the year combined. If that’s not a statistic yet, it should be.

It’s easy to coexist with a relative who lives hundreds of miles away. But when you’re all under the same roof for eight days, differences are easily exacerbated, feathers ruffled, and feelings slighted. And when family members all keep Torah and mitzvos, but understand those imperatives differently, navigating those differences can be much trickier than when one party does not keep halachah at all.

Children who can easily understand that Grandpa Mort never had a yeshivah education are likely to be more troubled by Jewishly educated Aunt Leah who davens Minchah and wears short sleeves. Conversely, individuals feel hurt by the implication that their observance is not up to par.

“Anytime I did anything slightly different from my family, they labeled it and put me in a box. ‘Oh, one of her right-wing idiosyncrasies,’ ” recounts Debbie, who moved to the right of her family after attending seminary in Israel and marrying someone from a similar background.

“My mother-in-law was very makpid on halachah, according to her understanding — she davened with a minyan regularly and was disappointed that I didn’t hear shofar in shul every Elul morning,” says Debbie, noting that her mother-in-law couldn’t understand why her daughter-in-law upheld different religious priorities.

Sheryl, whose children learned in more yeshivish institutions than she herself attended, says some of her heartache comes from realizing that her children are turning to their rebbeim and teachers for advice and discounting the chinuch they received at home. “There’s this system telling them, ‘We know what’s best for you, more than your parents do.’ ”

While a guest can certainly make reasonable requests, no one has the right to make demands of the host. The host’s responsibility is to set standards that will be as inclusive as possible to the greatest number of people; the guests’ job is to work within that framework as respectfully as possible

When parents feel that their children are being taught to dismiss the priorities they learned at a home, whether those standards are halachic or cultural (such as financially supporting one’s family), parents become fearful of losing their children to a system they suspect isn’t structurally sound.

When there are multiple stripes within one family, things become even more interesting. “There are the differences in how the grandchildren dress, which ones daven and which don’t, chalav Yisrael, yoshon, the ones who sell chometz, the ones who won’t eat it after it’s been bought back after Pesach…” Just listening to Sheryl’s list is exhausting.

The number-one head-scratcher for her circle of friends, she reports, is the one-two punch of the Internet and tzniyus: “We spend hours scouring our house for stuff that our sons object to. We put dozens of National Geographics away in cartons, and then one of my sons won’t stay in the same house as our computer. I’m all for shemiras einayim, but there’s a limit!”

With such divergent ideas of the right way to keep Torah, how can families get along for the week or more that they’ll be sharing the same roof? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 586)

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