Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pesach Cometh, Have You Shaken Your Books?

While looking on Chabad.org for a place to sell my chametz (I sort of hate this ritual, but I suppose it helps cover all the bases), I happened upon a pretty useful Q&A on "Passover at the In-Laws." The particular line that I felt I needed to share?
...It is incumbent upon every Jew to drive their rabbi nuts before Pesach.
Love it! Poor rabbis, however. I've had minimal questions for my rabbi this year, and most of the questions Tuvia has passed along (e.g., what's the difference between a convection oven and a regular oven?). But I am, in a way, heading to the in-laws for Pesach. Future in-laws that is. We'll be in Florida strictly for the first two days of the chag, which means flying down, doing the seders, and then coming back. No vacation time, no time to drive down to Boca, nada. We're staying with family friends (who aren't kosher, and I mention this only because I worry about refusing something so simple as a cup of water because of issues of kashruth), and I'm hoping that things go smoothly. Last year, Tuvia and I were still getting into our observance around this time. We were still lenient on our kashrut, functioning kosher in-house and watching what we ate out of the house, so going out to eat with family or driving around on Pesach were no big thing. Now? Yipes. We're in a different boat.

I think the hardest thing about becoming frum -- or more observant/more shomer -- is how your observance comes to affect those around you and how it affects situations with friends and family. Where you can eat, where you can't, how you address the issue of food and Shabbos. Dealing with being told you've become "too religious" or the like. All ba'alei teshuvah and converts deal with these kinds of things, and the issue is very delicate. For me, I can't expect my non-Jewish family to figure out what I need or to understand next to anything that comes along with being Jewish. But with Jewish in-laws? It's a whole other story sometimes.

So we'll go to Florida, hopefully get through the seder with the other shomer cousins, and tread delicately and thoughtfully with my future in-laws. I'll sport my prescription sunglasses, a dozen books, and hopefully enjoy some R&R wandering around the golf course.

In the end, logic must always prevail (just think: common sense), and, as the Chabad website says, there is halakah and doing only what you have to do in the presence of those who are uncomfortable is probably best. And most of all? "Passover is a festival for goodness sakes! Festival=time to bring families together in harmony, love and goodtime fun. What's desperately needed here is some education, sensible priorities and common sense."

I suppose I couldn't say it better. It's difficult to present myself to the in-laws sometimes; I worry they worry that I've transformed their kin in a unique and unnatural way. My spark of influence helped spark something in Tuvia's neshama and allowed him to develop himself in observance. To the in-laws, it easily can look like I've forcibly transformed him, and that's the last thing I want them to think. After all, it's the farthest thing from the truth.

What are your tips on staying with non-frum in-laws? Or hey, those of you out there who aren't frum, what gets your goat most about your frum friends or family when they come to visit or when you organize social events? Let's dialogue this. I want to help you help me, and, you know, vice-a-versa!

NOTE: I use the term "frum" to signify individuals who consider themselves strictly shomer mitzvot (observant of the mitzvot, such as shomer kashrut and shomer Shabbat). I avoid using terms like "more observant" or "more religious," because of the diversity of my readership. I think saying "more" anything can rub people the wrong way. After all, there is no scale.