Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Standing in the Shadow of a Martyr

Imagine that you have a close knit and loving family. You are close with parents grandparents and all of your siblings. Your brother just got engaged and asked you – his best friend – to be the ‘Best Man’ at his wedding. Imagine telling your brother that you refuse to do it. Imagine the reaction of not only your brother but the entire family. Imagine telling them that you will not even attend the wedding – for no reason other than your newly attained religious sensibilities.

This is exactly what happened to one Baal Teshuva by the name of Ross Kryger. He tells his story on Beyond BT. His brother was intermarrying and the ceremony was going to be in a church. He asked a Shaila to his Rav whether he would even be permitted to attend (let alone participate in any public way like being the best man). He was told no - in no uncertain terms. His family pleaded with him. He had after all attended a cousin’s wedding in a church in the past. He had also attended his father’s intermarriage and even danced with him. All before he became observant.

The following is his description of what happened:

I told my brother I wasn’t going. He thought I was joking…I wouldn’t be best man at his wedding?? I’ll skip the blood and gore…it was awful. Devastation doesn’t even come close. My father’s blood pressure became a steady 400/200. It was actually a relief when he stopped talking to me (although perhaps five years was overdoing it a bit.) My mother did understand to some extent, but cried anyway. And now, in 20AD After Discovery of Yiddishkeit) , my brother still hasn’t said a word to me, despite numerous attempts to reach out. My extended family was horrified.

I wonder how many of us who are born into religious families could withstand being cut off from them... from the mother and father who lovingly raised you and gave you every advantage …from your siblings and extended families... Even if it was in service of your principles, could you do it? That is what this man did after discovering Emes.

He asks whether this might in any way be a Chilul HaShem – even though he realizes that it was the right thing to do. If there was ever a chance of Orthodox Jews reaching out to them, this certainly killed any possibility of it.

I would answer that following Halacha in the face of such adversity is in fact a Kiddush HaShem.

He says that perhaps he could have handled things differently. I suppose there might have been a better way to handle it that may have minimized the personal and emotional damage. I really don’t know. But one thing is very clear to me. This man is a hero. And this is precisely why I say that very few people who have been born into religious families and raised that way can even stand in the shadows of a Baal Teshuva.