Family No More?

This period of the Jewish year is a three-week-long time of sad introspection and mourning, starting and ending with a fast day.  As befits mourning, Jewish weddings, live music concerts, and other festive events do not take place during these days. The sad period of 22 days reaches its apex on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.

We focus on the many tragedies over millennia that have befallen the Jewish people during these three weeks. The ninth of Av was the date that ten of the twelve spies sowed fear about entering the land of Israel upon their return to the Israelite camp. Centuries later that date saw the destruction of both the first and second Temples, leading to an exile that continues to this day. It was also the date of the tragic outbreak of World War I in the 20th century.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us to think of ourselves as active participants in our fate, not victims. As such, our tradition attributes the destruction of the Second Temple not to Roman anti-Semitism, but to baseless hatred among Jews.  We brought it upon ourselves. Not surprisingly, many classes given during this time of the year focus on increasing sensitivity to others and repairing broken ties. While we are obliged to act with decency and courtesy towards all people, we are supposed to see our coreligionists as family. The underlying message is that family can be exasperating, thick-headed, and annoying but they are still family.

I don’t know if that message still resonates today. I have been re-reading Anne of Ingleside (from the Anne of Green Gables series) and Anne’s husband’s aunt is making her family’s life a misery. Aunt Mary Maria is critical, irritable and dour. Yet, she cannot be told that she has overstayed her welcome because—well, she is family. This conclusion doesn’t seem extreme in books written in the early 1900s. In today’s climate, she might never make it over the threshold.

At the same time as my relaxing reading takes me back a  century, I am also an avid follower of the #Walkaway movement. At this point, hundreds of thousands of individuals have posted videos or written testimonials about leaving the Democrat Party. Almost everyone has a tale of long-lasting friendships ending because of their political awakening and those are certainly painful. Worse, stories abound of people being told by parents/siblings/children that speaking positively about President Trump or Republicans is a reason for shattering family ties. Watching a young man sob as he tells you that his parents kicked him out of the house for acknowledging that he will be voting for President Trump is heartbreaking. This is not about politics; it is about religion.  Yes, the left is no longer a political doctrine about which friends can disagree.  It is a fundamentalist faith with its saints and its sinners, with its heroes and its heretics.  And as history reminds us, heretics must be destroyed.

My husband founded and served a beautiful synagogue in  California most of whose members grew up in homes that were emotionally Jewish but not committed to religious observance. As adults who found their way to my husband’s Torah classes, many of these young people began confining their diet to only kosher food, observing the Shabbat and changing their lives in hundreds of ways to align with Biblical requirements for Jews. Much of my husband’s time went to ensuring that relationships with their families remained loving and healthy. When one has found a new and electrifying relationship with God, it is easy to become overbearing and judgmental towards others. My husband repeatedly emphasized that a wonderful sister who craves a cheeseburger is no less wonderful once her newly kosher sibling rejects that religiously problematic food and considers it spiritually harmful. A father who drove you to the mall every Saturday when you were fourteen and now wants to drive over to see you on the day you have come to know as Shabbat, when using a mechanical vehicle is religiously proscribed, is still the same loving father he always was.

The media delight in telling us that religion and faith are ebbing.  That is not true for the destructive religion of Secular Fundamentalism which brings to life the worst manifestations of twisted religion—arrogance, false piety, wishing harm on apostates.  Yes, this is all alive and well in the political sphere. Perhaps the lessons of the three weeks when we focus on the damage done by not treating others with sensitivity and care needs a wider audience.

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14 thoughts on “Family No More?”

  1. Thank you Susan. I could not agree more. There is a bond that should be stronger than having differing opinions when you are family! Respect and a listening ear go a long way to maintaining family bonds through conflicting ideals and opinions.

  2. [I am glad I am not the only Mom who re-reads the Anne books. My favorites are Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside.]
    My oldest daughter was in college in 2016. As part of a political science class she interned with the state rep where her school was located. My daughter campaigned for Hillary Clinton. She supported Clinton. It strained our relationship, but we made it through. I dealt with shock at one point, wondering what I had done wrong as a mother. Now she is busy working as an office manager for a construction company, and we can talk politics again. Our governor is a Democrat woman who is abusing her power due to the virus (my opinion is it is more about the election, but I digress…) and at first I tread gently with my daughter in conversation, remembering her earlier support of HRC. One day on the phone she said, “Mom, I work and pay taxes, and sell roofs and windows to people who work and pay taxes. Believe me, I do not support her at all!”
    Her sister is also out on her own and has been convinced by her friends that Trump is a bad man. Again, I tread gently. I do feel a strain at times. She defends the governor and will not listen to facts. However, I am wiser this time around. I know from experience now that this does not have to be a permanent way of things. I pray more, too. She is G-d’s child. He loves her more than I do.
    I was so delighted that your husband answered my question regarding The Happy Warrior. His answer is applicable to this situation. A happy warrior fights the battle as an overcomer. These poor souls embracing this leftist religion are not happy warriors. They are angry and harming their own souls, not to mention hurting the people around them. They do not have the joy of the Lord as their strength. Please let your husband know I am working toward being a happier warrior every day. May the Lord bless the Lapin family with joy and peace.

    1. Thank you Krysten. Your words are encouraging to me as my daughter is also following a leftist way of thinking and conversation can be difficult at times. You have given me hope.

  3. Dear Susan,
    Thank you so much for your wisdom and inspiration. The recent articles and podcasts regarding the American empire coming to an end are deeply disturbing, and true I fear. You and Rabbi Lapin are very wise and truly blessed to have friends and family throughout the globe that would welcome you with open arms into their homes should an emergency situation arise. As an American with family and friends only in the US, have you any advice for establishing connections abroad that may also serve as a safe haven should the need arise? Also how would one come to terms with possibly leaving some family members behind, as I’m sure many did in the build up of WWII in Germany?

  4. Christine Jones

    Thank you so much for your daily emails – I always receive the wisdom that helps me turn my eyes to God more fully. At times I find myself caught up in the world, and then after reading your thoughts remind myself that I might be in the world, but I am a child of God and need to focus more on what the scriptures teach. Thanks again. I pray that you and the rabbi will continue to share with us! I pray for God’s blessings on you and your family (in the broadest sense of the word).

    1. Christine, We write for ourselves as much as for others. We all need constant reminding that there is a correct path to follow.

  5. Thank you so much for your insights!!! ❤️ I too am guilty of being as hard on others as I am on myself. This is in my life an arrogance that I pray will be eradicated completely from my heart and life. Bless you dear sister! 🤗

    1. Bonny, most of us are harder on others than we are on ourselves, so you are in a good starting place!

  6. Joan Gloss Snyder

    I truly depend on your insight to enlighten my day in this dreadful attack on our country. THANK YOU!

    1. Joan, I do think we all need to act in whatever way we can to keep this country, whether that means speaking up, contributing time and money, mentoring others or all of the above.

  7. Dear Susan, your comments echo those of David Horowitz who contends that Leftism is a “crypto-religion” and I completely agree. Your words also remind me of the book, “Bowling Alone”. I also suspect rampant illegitimacy and welfare programs and Leftist dominated educational systems and pop culture have done the most to destroy families. Still, compared to my parents generation we’ve all had it so much better or as my dear old dad who was raised in Oklahoma during the depression would say, “We’ve all been riding on a gravy train with biscuit wheels”. . .

    1. Ty, meeting David Horowitz was one of the sparks that led my husband and me to take an interest in politics and to understand what was going on.

    1. Scott, when I read older books it usually directs a lesson straight at me in terms of what used to be “normal” behavior and now would be considered downright saintly.

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