Love, Not War
Whether or not you have kids, it may have crossed your mind what kind of Judaism you want to give them. There are as many varieties of Judaism as there are Jews — probably more! We all know the perils of parents who force religion “down their kids’ throat.” No one likes them. Their children resent them — and if their kids turn out frum, it’s despite the forceful parenting. On the other hand, children need to be educated — shown how to behave — from tying their shoes and blowing their noses to putting on tefillin and davening with a minyan.
Religion is not the problem — we are. Sounds like a blanket statement, but let me explain. The same parent that forced Judaism down their kids throat is the same parent who spreads the anxiety in the home on erev Shabbos and is the same parent that was forceful about things outside of Judaism. Whether it was about doing the dishes or making the beds, this parent is the kind that frets and borders neurosis.
Why Joy Works
Joy is the answer. In Chapter 32 of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that our job is not to change people into being frum. I believe this is what he means when he explains that the only time to rebuke someone is if they are on your level. No one has ever experienced anyone else’s “story” and no one can. It’s not possible unless you’re a rebbe.
What then is the answer? How are we meant to spread the Good Word? Love.
When we thoroughly enjoy something, we tell everyone we know. Whether it’s a new job or something we’re learning — everyone we care about finds out what we’re into. And it spreads. How many words are part of your vocabulary because your friends and family use those words? How many of your family and friends’ mannerisms have you willfully employed by osmosis?
That’s the answer. If we truly enjoy our Judaism — and some tastes must be acquired — and we love our family, then in the words of the Alter Rebbe, “maybe, just maybe” it will work. We can’t change people. But, if we truly love someone — not “holier than thou” patronage — and we truly enjoy our Judaism, then we can have an effect on them.
It’s easier to accept a stranger’s shortcomings than it is to accept those in our inner circle. Chapter 32 of Tanya, I believe, was said about those who are closest to us — the people whose faults we know. Simple, not so easy to apply. But hey, it’s the long short way.