Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Most reasonable email from my dad to date?

So as per my friend's suggestion, soon after my dad's visit I sent him an email apologizing for dropping the living together thing on him right when we were leaving the car, and talking about how I hate being secretive so that's why I told him about stuff. Here's the email he sent me back almost a week later;

Hi [Abandoning Eden],

Thanks for your note regarding last week's visit. It was good to see you again too. We should do it more often.

While I know we have different religious practice values I still can't help but feel that this is not what drives us apart. After all, I have a relationship with your brother, even though he is not observant, and I have been close friends with my [friend] for the past 46 years even though he is not religious, as well as keeping close ties with my high school chavrusa, in Houston who is not religious too. As the cliché goes, "some of my best friends ..."

Frankly, I've always thought that being secretive and less than forthcoming creates trust issues which are corrosive to maintaining a good relationship. It would be like a husband who is handsome, friendly and nice to his wife except that he cheats on her from time to time. It is not conducive to a healthy relationship.

In regards to dropping Jewish religious and cultural affiliations, I see it as an unfortunate loss. Having spoken to thousands of people over the years, a common denominator is that we all want to feel that we belong and that we matter. Maintaining an orthodox lifestyle, whether you agree with 100%, 80% or 30% of the rituals and beliefs, gives you instant access and affiliation to family, community and a universe of likeminded people. To discard family, community and tribe is to throw away a valuable commodity. Sure, there are some rules and conventions that come along with belonging to a group. But you can't buck it all, disrespect the group and still maintain the benefits. As an example, I had a famous Yankee baseball player as a
patient a few years back. He had to conform to certain rules. He had to wear the same uniform as the team. He had to have a rbi average of over .250. He had to show up for practice and listen to lectures and admonishments from Joe Torre, the manager, and a host of coaches so that he could be better at what he did. He had to work out in the gym between games to the point of exhaustion. Sounds oppressive, right? But in return, he earned over ten million dollars a year. He was also famous, popular and earned endorsement contracts. He thought it was worth the trouble.

My thinking about the relationship between you and B is as I've described to you. I love you and will always be there as your father. However, I cannot condone or bless some your behaviors such as dating or being intimate with a non-Jewish man. And you knew this going in. After all, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on your yeshiva education throughout the years. You knew the score when you started this and you you took on the risks and consequences of your actions.

It's ironic. My Shabbos Gemara shiur this week (Tractate Kiddushin 68b) will focus on the Torah prohibition of being intimate with a non-Jew. Deuteronomy 7:3 explicitly prohibits this. Marriages of this sort are not recognized or considered valid by Jewish law.

If you don't like the fish and bird analogy from Fiddler on the Roof, consider this analogous to announcing that you are gay and have a partner that you wish to marry. Sure, such people can live together and may even be able to get a civil authority to sanction their union in some jurisdictions but such a marriage would not be recognized or sanctioned as a marriage by the Torah or the civil government in most instances. Being married is fraught with great challenges. That is why we invoke God's presence and blessings in religious wedding ceremonies because we want to start with the odds stacked in our favor. If you want to "come out" and announce your relationship go ahead. But don't expect everyone to embrace it and feel comfortable with it just because they like you or you are family.

Mom and I also would feel uncomfortable with the idea of living with anyone prior to marriage, regardless of their religious affiliation. It diminishes the sanctity of marriage and may cause problems in the relationship.

We wish you continued success in your academic, professional and personal life. We are proud of you and wish you all the best life has to offer. Hopefully, your DNA test results will turn out well and you will have a long, healthy and happy life.



So i'm not sure how to take that? The gay thing...that's funny, I wrote an entry about it earlier, but I think that gay people SHOULD have rights and all, so I'm not sure that works an as analogy for me. And him telling me that cohabitation may cause problems in the of all, this is the subject of my dissertation, (cohabitation and union transitions and later marital stability) so I know lots about it, and that is totally not true. Second of all, why would he want our relationship to have less problems?

I haven't replied yet, and might just leave it and not reply at all. I've been invited to a memorial day bbq at my parent's house, and am debating whether I should go to that. B offered to lend me his car to drive there (I don't have a car- it's about 2 hours each way), as if I take the train I won't have a way to make a quick escape- the train station is a 20 minute drive from my parent's house so I would need them to drive me to it.


  1. Interesting letter.

    I saw some similarities to the way my family used to talk to me. Your dad is quoting the torah to prove something. My family used to do that. They might as well have been quoting the new testament, since I do not believe in that either.

    At some point, I just started lashing out at them for that, and they've stopped.

    Secondly, your dad is trying to imply that your relationship with B. is immoral by comparing it to a gay marriage.

    I don't think the letter is reasonable at all.

  2. i don't think it's reasonable, just the most reasonable to date.

    And re: the gay marriage thing. Yeah. My dad is totally off right there. Why would he think that comparing it to being gay would discourage me?

    This letter (among others) just further proves that me and my dad are coming from entirely different/opposite mindsets. If he had any understanding of me or my beliefs, he wouldn't be using these arguments.

    But at this point, I think i'm done arguing with him.

  3. You are done arguing? Fine. Your father let you know he loves you no matter what. A true father does that despite disagreement not condoning whatever the child does as that is not love. You should write or talk to your father back. Have you told him you love him no matter what?

  4. So there it is. You do have differences in belief and you can't change his perspectives on that. So here you are working within that framework. Which still sucks, but life sucks. I can tell you much worse parent scenarios. But from what I've seen (in other relationships) this is the point where you get to accept the things you don't like about them, and then maintain the emotional ties of love that are so important. You get to make the decision, now that you are a grown-up to pick your battles, and to choose to balance your actions accordingly. Your father is acting with honor and love, and trying to explain his rational at the same time as reinforcing that the love is there for you regardless. Life is imperfect.
    Your family is terribly important, and I think it is great that you are preserving that.
    And (personally) I would totally go to the barbecue, and mention B as little as possible. There's plenty of other opportunities to remind them of his existence. I'd give them a break this one time, accept that this is not personal against you even though it affects you that way, and just focus on enjoying the good things about your family. Such as that precious love.
    (I'm glad you wrote him :) )
    Totally proud of you! :D

  5. You have made certain choices about your religious practices beliefs and so has he. His bar him from condoning your relationship with B and as much as he loves you, he also feels bound by his religious beliefs. I think he has already made some compromises but find it hard to argue that he should make more concessions. Who is to be the judge over which, religion or family, is more important?

    I think this is one of the sad outcomes of our Jewish belief system. Still, I don't see how you expect him to sacrifice his beliefs for your relationship with him. Would you?

  6. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks. While my heart goes out to your parents, I also understand your frustration and desire for love, and to take it where you find it.

    As far as this letter, I think it's beautiful. Your father is being honest, maintaining his beliefs, while maintaining and asserting his love for you.

    You question why your father wouldn't want your marriage to have problems. He's probably torn...while this union is abhorrent to him, you're still his daughter and he wants you to be happy.

    In my opinion, this was a mature, honest, loving letter. It seems like some of the other commenters/friends are out to find all the negative in your father, as well as in the Orthodox community in general.

    Good luck to you.

  7. "I think this is one of the sad outcomes of our Jewish belief system."

    Any values instilled by parents when rejected by children causes pain. But that's because of love. She also has her values and though they clash it should not lead to rejection on either side. AE explore what does cause the strain other than religion. He said there is such a thing so explore it. I wish I could still have parents to show my love for them. Don't you blow it.

  8. It seems to me that your father is reaching out to you. Are you going to let pride or fear or whatever it is that is blocking you prevent you from doing the same?

  9. other than to say I'm glad your dad is trying (for him, and it's a good effort from him, it seems), the language I wish to use in my reaction to the part about ceasing to play the game being akin to discarding family and the part about funds spent on your yeshiva education is far more colorful than I would like to publicly display at the moment. I may fill in some blanks later, but I'm sure you get the idea.

  10. YOUR dad is in mourning. He is in mourning for the future he has dreamed of but will never come to be.Be gentle with him because his heart is really breaking inside. He is mourning for the bris or pidyon haben he will never attend because it just won;t happen. He is in mourning for the grandchildren who will never sit around his shabbat table and taste the wine from his kiddush cup. He and your mother brought you into this world and their obligation is to you. You did not ask to be born so in actuality you owe them nothing. Personally I don't give a crap about religion but I do love tradition.

  11. Look at two very telling quotes:

    Frankly, I've always thought that being secretive and less than forthcoming creates trust issues which are corrosive to maintaining a good relationship.

    Followed later by:

    If you want to "come out" and announce your relationship go ahead. But don't expect everyone to embrace it and feel comfortable with it just because they like you or you are family.

    So, he doesn't want you to be secretive. I agree here, actually.

    But then he is trying, at least tacitly, to get you not to tell people.

    I would respond that you are not going to hide anything. If people ask you what you are up to, tell them. If they ask about a Shidduch, you will tell them you are engaged to B. If they ask about what shul, you will tell them that you aren't observant. The responsibility for the answer lies with the person who asked the question -- if they didn't want to know, they shouldn't ask.

    If your father really means what he said about secrecy, then he doesn't really have a place to object to that policy.

    That being said, I also would not go to a secular family event (Memorial Day BBQ) without B.

  12. I think it's a positive development. Your father says he loves you and will continue to be in your life regardless of what you do. That's about all you can ask right now. I know you want him to also be happy for your relationship and to agree with you about intermarriage and living together, but that he's sticking around and communicating and encouraging honesty is a great first step. (It's also approximately where my parents are.)

    He's not trying to blackmail you or coerce you or threaten you -- just convince. He'll no doubt fail at that as he probably should, but it's possible for people who love each other to live with such important disagreements.

  13. You AE also have values he is rejecting and yet you expect him to love you. He deserves the same. Picture yourself as a mother. Would you want your child to reject you despite the pain you would feel if your child rejects your values. As for BBQ's and events if you wish to go without B you can especially since you and B now are not even married. You don't go everywhere with him anyhow. Everyone needs time alone and with certain people at a time.

  14. My Shabbos Gemara shiur this week (Tractate Kiddushin 68b) will focus on the Torah prohibition of being intimate with a non-Jew. Deuteronomy 7:3 explicitly prohibits this.

    Tell your dad he should brush up on his Tanach before he goes (or gives) shiur:

    "1 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before thee, the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 and when the LORD thy God shall deliver them up before thee, and thou shalt smite them; then thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them; 3 neither shalt thou make marriages with them: thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son." (Deut. 7:1-3)

    The passage applies only to the specified "indigenous nations" of the land of Israel. By inference, all other nations are permitted. Since B is probably not a Girgashite, your marriage is totally fine according to Biblical law.

    (Sadly, the same passage permits genocide of these nations, even saying not to have any mercy on them. But hey, the Torah was written 2500 years ago, and they didn't understand back then that genocide is simply evil.)

    It drives me nuts that Orthodox men are willing to sacrifice their daughters for a faith they haven't even begun to understand. Oy.

  15. With respect to the letter: Your dad is trying to give you an idea of what's going on in his head. Why he's religious. At the same time, he's basically making huge assumptions about your reasons for not being.

    He also makes a huge assumption that not being Orthodox = rejection of all of Judaism.

    Rather than take offense at this, realize that he's caught in a web and just doesn't know any better. His rabbis and religion have failed him, they have not taught him to see the forest for the trees. As we all know by now, he's also on the losing side of history. They used to be anti-interracial marriage, or anti-interreligious marriage. Now all they have left is anti-gay marriage. And believe me, that tide is turning fast. These alter kockers are going to be gone within a generation, and with them will go the last vestiges of their racist and absolutist beliefs.

    Other than that, the letter is pretty reasonable. He didn't say he'd never meet B or anything absolutist. Don't read anything into it that isn't there.

    The letter could have been written by my dad. One shocking thing I learned about my parents is that they've never even consulted a rabbi about their daughter's "situation." I think that's a huge mistake. For my folks, I think a driving force behind their positioning is their fear of public humiliation within their community. It's not even about belief. But if they had the courage to talk to a rabbi, they'd find out that this shit happens all the time and really isn't as big a deal as they think it is.

  16. His argument is a little odd. Basically, you should be Orthodox, though you don't believe in it, so you'll have access to the institutions of Judaism?

  17. There's a whole lot of guilt there about the money they spent on your Jewish education (though hundreds of thousands seems a bit high)

    Still, as others have said, he does seem to be reaching out.

  18. Candyman other than taking issue with the full parameters of your Biblical interpretation or your feelings on which way the wind is blowing I again see you as being basically positive for urging reconciliation for AE with her parents. This is really to me the main issue to concentrate on here.

  19. "Secondly, your dad is trying to imply that your relationship with B. is immoral by comparing it to a gay marriage."

    He's not saying it's immoral. He's saying that the status is unrecognized by the system.

    You can't have nisuin with a non-Jew anymore than you can have a gay marriage in Texas anymore than you can say a camel is a type of reptile. His point is that just because you declare yourself 'married' doesn't mean you're actually married as far as his system defines it. Even if he wanted to accept your status he couldn't because the necessary conditions simply aren't met.

  20. does your father know that you are publishing his every comment and letter on your blog?
    if he does not know,you are a disgusting person by whatever atheistic standards you adhere to!

  21. Candyman other than taking issue with the full parameters of your Biblical interpretation

    Hey, I can't help it. When I see Tanach misquoted I gotta speak up.

    I again see you as being basically positive for urging reconciliation for AE with her parents. This is really to me the main issue to concentrate on here.

    Indeed. Well, this shit takes time. That's another lesson I've learned going through all this. Give it time. Like, a year or so. If you are on better terms with your Mom, talk to her first. It takes the folks a while to even start to wrap their heads around the idea that their child would commit the (OJ layman's) "cardinal sin": no, not chillul Shabbat, but marrying someone who was not born Jewish!

    Besides giving it time, you might reasonably ask your dad if he's ever spoken to a rabbi about this. I think rabbis have, in general, a deeper understanding of halakha than your average Ortho layman, and therefore are much more likely to be lenient and think in terms of solutions.

    There's any number of halakhic frameworks in which to save your relationship. The emotional stress placed on you and your family during this time constitutes no less than pikuach nefesh -- the obligation to save a life. With stakes that high, any rabbi worth his salt (Orthodox or Reform, it doesn't matter) will come to your family's aid.

  22. if he does not know,you are a disgusting person

    I disagree. The blog is cathartic and anonymous. It saves Eden from emotional distress and further arguments with her family. And it helps other people (like me) who are in similar situations.

    The letters might reasonably be shared with friends who know the father... a fortiori may they be shared with friends who do not know him.

    I just also want to chime in and say to Eden, your dad is proud of your career, but I am proud of your willingness to take on tradition and not just be a blind follower. That takes guts, and intelligence.

  23. I think it's an interesting and well written letter, even if I don't agree with what's written there.

    However, one thing sprang out of it as true to me. He said though you have religious differences, he can't help but think this is not what drives you apart.

    Forgive my insolence, but I think this is accurate. After having read your entire blog a few weeks back, I came away with the feeling that you weren't just anti-religious, but held some sort of resentment towards your parents.

    For example, long before you met B. you had signficant and bitter arguments with your parents, where perhaps there needn't have been.

    You also stated your disatisfaction with what was essentially your parents perpetuation of their belief system, the way in which women were treated in Judaism and in your parents house in general (not being able to learn certain things, being sent to schools of lesser repute than you'd have liked etc).

    This resentment and subsequent arguments were perhaps exuberated by the withdrawal of funding in your early college years and other ways in which your parents reacted to your cange of beliefs, but I don't think they were the primal cause. Of course I could be wrong and I hope I'm not overstepping the boundaries here.

    As for reasonableness, I think the letter is very reasonable indeed. All that he has said is he can't bless your union with B. because it would contravene his beliefs, a brief recitation of said beliefs, and the assurance that he still loves you no matter what you choose to do.

    What more could anyone want? I myself would be delighted to get such a response from my parents about my non-Jewish girlfriend, with whom I have long term plans simmering, similar to that of B. and yourself.

    You yourself stated in your post of December 27 2007 "I LIKE my family....and i never wanted to get ostrasized by them." It appears you're not going to be, so smile =)

    As for Rabban Gamaliel's words, I agree completely. Spoken like a true sage =)

  24. Thanks my skeptical friend :-). LOL. I really think you are right. There are deep issues AE is going through that are more fundamental to healing the situation than talking of Orthodoxy or the lack thereof. You have to react to people in terms of what is really them. Her family is her family and the wider Orthodox community is the wider Orthodox community. Frankly the issue should be her family right now. Perhaps she is really suited for skepticism but right now I don't know or primarily care about it. One thing at a time and healing is the thing of the hour. Afterwards she can see how much is her reactions to her family and how much is her objective feelings on issues of faith. Perhaps she will even strike an in between position afterwards.

  25. Rabban Gamaliel + AE:

    I hope everything works out for AE. I'm watching the part of your life you choose to reveal here with bated breath as I see your actions seem to foreshadow many of my own.

    I would mention here that you're lucky B wants to meet your parents (if he does, but the objection that you wouldnt be able to take B to your parents house seems to indicate it) - my girlfriend doesn't really want to, due to the conflicting philosophical values, despite the reassurances I give her that they're not going to eat her alive...
    As for whether or not my parents would like to meet her, I know they would like to get a look at her...

    It works both ways.

  26. This is the first time Im reading youre blog and probably the last.
    I'll try to say this in the nicess way, but you wont have a great afterlife I truly feel bad for you.

  27. mikeinmidwood-

    I'm sure randomly spewing vitriol on the internet is a sure ticket to heaven. Good luck with that.

  28. I love Jong's blog!

    Now here's a blog for you. Or a cool Jew at least! He's a rabbi and a hippy, and he plays in his band gefiltefish before Phish shows :)


    Man, you are getting some wisdom from some peps out there. Rock! (And some vitriol from dumbasses, but such is the world and the uncensored blog)

  30. I had to come back to see what you would say, people tend to take what I say the wrong way or is it just me.( I should have written that you should read what wrote in a soft tone.)I didnt mean to offend you in anyway I just exspressed my feelings, it hurts me to hear of a jew that went off. I dont know what else to say. Oh! and I happen to pray for you thats the truth.(politely) Say what you want now I would like to know.

  31. This (more or less) could have been written by my father as well. The letter is tragicaly clueless on so many levels, (yet it is clear that he loves you and has much to offer as a parent). I like the gay analogy a lot, and one can just imagine a letter from a parent trying to convince a child 'not to be gay'.

    One thing is that your father will have to work out is that, while you value his love, you're not asking for him to condone your choices. He can disagree all he wants. But, if he wants to have a relationship with you, (and possibly his grandchidren), then he should realize that rejecting your partner is not going to be conducive to that.

    Lastly, the sooner that you and him can stop arguing about fish, birds, Yankees and gays, and the sooner that you can just relate as family, the better off you will both be. This exercise is just a mask for all of the hurt and love which is playing out between you.

    Good luck.

  32. @ mike:

    Your grammar is embarrassing. Maybe you should have spent more time on your studies rather than reading the useless tripe found in the Torah.

    And I agree. It is so so sad to see a person discarding the trappings of a xenophobic, archaic, misogynistic, and deluded tradition. (Note sarcasm you of such a feeble mind.)

  33. Anonymous you really have become hateful by taking advantage of one person's comments to make your prejudiced and hateful statements.

  34. this had me in tears, quietgirl, great comments. AE, I wish you only the best. WOW

  35. Mike is a good kid (sorry, Mike, you're not 80 years old, people aren't being nice, and I think you not being ancient does line you up for tolerance and education, not a boot to the head [but that's just my opinion]).

    I think he just didn't know how to handle what he read. Rather than reject him, as so many here have felt rejected by their own families, thanking him for his concern re: ae's afterlife and assuring him that she will handle it just fine when her time comes is another approach that could've been taken. It wasn't. Okay. AE, I totally understand you responding the way you did, 'cause it's your blog, so the following isn't directed toward you (or your friend, 'cause she's biased for a reason and I understand that, even if I don't agree with her reaction).

    My point is this: Tolerance goes both ways. Especially for people who wish their more observant family members would understand them better, or at least love them anyway, even if they believe or observe nothing or something else or something differently than they do. Respect is earned. No one gets what they're not willing to give, or not usually, I don't think. Anyway, I don't think that calling people names will promote understanding or tolerance of others' different beliefs/practices/behavior.

    Mike, if you have any concerns or questions, please ask. And please don't worry about AE's afterlife. She'll be okay (and if not, she'll deal with it, as we all will, eventually). If you don't want to get into it here, but would like to discuss any aspect of lifestyle differences among Jews, please feel free to leave me a note on my site, and I'll get back to you. Thanks.

    AE, you have PM elsewhere.


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