Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dialogue with My Chareidi Distant-Cousin

Sarah: Hi, Chevy. It's Sarah!

Chevy: Sarah, how nice to hear from you. How are you?

Sarah: Doing great. [Small talk commences about UYO, how are her kids, how is she doing, etc] . . . I was wondering if we could schedule a time to see each other?

Chevy: Sure! When do you want to come?

Sarah: How about lunch this Shabbos?

Chevy: That sounds great. We'd all love to see you. The kids get so excited when you come.

Sarah: I look forward to it. Look, there's something I want to ask you, a favor. It's hard for me to say this because sometimes it's hard for me to ask for what I want, but I figure I'll tell you what I want and then you can do whatever you want with it . . .

Chevy: Okay . . .

Sarah: The last time I came, I was playing with Rachelah (age 5), who I love. Rachelah is my baby doll. And it was summer, so I was wearing sleeves to my elbow, you know? And she said 'why are you wearing short sleeves?' I said 'because it's the summer.' And she said 'but you are over bat mitzvah. It's assur (prohibited) for you to wear short sleeves.' And one of your boys told me it's assur for me to be learning gemara.

Chevy: [unreadable tone] Mmmm . . .

Sarah: And, you know, I understand that in your neighborhood it is assur to wear elbow-length sleeves. I would never, for example, tell Rachelah that it's ok for her to wear sleeves to her elbow to her school, because your community has standards, and you have to meet those standards.

Chevy: Yeah, mm hmm . . .

Sarah: But I'd like the kids to know that there are frum rabbis who say that wearing sleeves to your elbow is OK. They aren't the rabbis you follow, but I'm not doing anything assur. I'm just following rabbis who are more meikil (lenient). The same with the gemara. I know it's controversial. But it's not assur. There are many frum rabbis who support it. I'm not doing an aveira (sin), I'm just following a different opinion and a different outlook. I'm not going to be judged negatively in shamayim (Heaven) for it, I'm following rabbanim who say it's OK.

Chevy: For sure. I understand. I'll talk to the kids.

Sarah: I don't know how you feel about it yourself, but if nothing else, it's not polite for the kids to tell a guest that they are doing something assur.

Chevy: No, for sure, you're not doing anything wrong. You're just in a different group. It's a different hashkafa. I'm glad you said something. It's important for us to know if the kids do something that makes you feel bad. I'll talk to them.

Sarah: Oh, thank you so much. Do you want me to bring anything for lunch? Like, before Shabbat?

Chevy: Nah, why should you? It's not like you live next door. We'll just be happy to see you.

Sarah: Well, I'd like to help you. If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know.

Chevy: OK, good. How about noon, then? See you on Shabbos.

Sarah: Great. See you then.

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