all in the family, emphasis on all

Many years ago, when ISHI and I were both at yeshiva (in those days, we didn’t have any problem calling women’s seminaries “yeshiva”, which is quite different from today. I don’t know when that differentiation became supreme.), we were in the men’s and women’s division of the same yeshiva and we had a number of the same teachers. Granted, ISHI didn’t have any women teachers, but I did have many of the same men teachers. One in particular made it his business to meet with every single one of us before we would return home/back to our families, whether it was for a short time or leaving yeshiva for good.

That was the point, of course, to make it for good.

He said that if you made your mother cry at all for any reason, trying to impose any of your frumkeit on your parents, you will have lost every point you made with all your little halakhic details, because the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Em is more essential than any of the little things.

I mentioned in my previous post about trying to help a couple with their Pesach preparations so that it shouldn’t become a point of too much tension, even (or perhaps especially) though my own situation always gets dicey. But between kids and their parents? That should never become an issue.

And yet, I know it does. Again from personal experience up and down. I know how hard it is to be a guest, even in your own home, so to speak. But the idea of “You can never go home again” always looms large. Our expectations for both our parents and our children is always out-of-whack.

And yet…

I know we can be aware of something we don’t want to do, while we’re doing it. I know how much some behaviors are ingrained in us, much deeper than addictions, more like imprinting.

And so that’s the purpose of all this Pesach stuff, isn’t it? To uproot us from our daily behaviors, our destructive behaviors, and get us out of our comfort zones and change it all up.

And yet…

How many of us accomplish this? How many of us get past our “I was like a seventy-year old” mode? How do we get our children to challenge us in a positive way and not take it badly? How can we get out of “You’ll understand when you’re older”, when we really don’t understand at all?

I started this last week after reading this disturbing blog about ba’alei teshuvah being told to stay away from their families for the sake of their Yiddishkeit by their rabbeim. There are some comments that state the same thing as I started out with–that there is an obligation to put the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents in its proper place, at the top of the chart.

Towards the bottom of the blentry, he says this:

Kibud Av V’Em is a hard Mitzvah sometimes. While it is true that following Halacha over-rides a parent who tells you not to follow Halacha – this does not absolve anyone of the requirement to honor their parents. Blowing up the relationship is certainly not the way to fulfill that requirement. One may distance themselves if necessary but one may not completely cut them off in my view. The lines of communication should always remain open.

So maybe that’s why Purim and the sense of humor comes before Pesach, to get us ready for the family and all the wonderful challenges.


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