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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, October 20, 2003

Yom Tov at the Yeshiva

I spent this past Yom Tov at the Yeshiva with a friend of mine who grew up there. I have been there for Shabbos before, but never for a full-blown Yom Tov. It was definitely interesting, and quite a difference from my typical Shabbos at home in my apartment. This friend of mine is one of ten children, and all but one was home for the holidays. This meant that altogether, besides myself, there were my friend's grandmother and grandfather, her parents, eight of her nine siblings, three of her siblings's spouses, her husband, and six children three and under crawling around. It was quite a zoo, to say the least. My friend and all of her married siblings, except for one, live in Lakewood, also known as the shtarkest place this side of Israel. I have been there a few times, to visit my friend, it is not a place that I could ever see myself living in. My friend's family is very nice, and made me feel extremely welcome. But I couldn't help looking around at everyone, all the children crawling around, all the in-laws together, one big happy family, and I knew that I would never have what they have, nor do I think it is what I really want so much. I can say that I envy the large, close family, bound by tradition. I loved the fact that all the men knew so much Torah and that was the focus of discussion at the table. But I also felt that there was something missing there, and I think that there is some merit in bringing the secular world into your life. I think there is definitely something to be learned from embracing non-frum Jews. I think when your entire life is so homogenous, you lose your capacity for being able to connect with others, and I think this is a loss. I know that I do learn a lot from my non-jewish co-workers and classmates. I find that in a lot of ways, my exposure to the secular strengthens my belief that Torah is the correct path, and it also forces me to realize that Torah encompasses all of life. I think some people miss this lesson by never seeing how people who don't have the Torah get through life. The truth is, I don't think that a family such as the one I stayed with would understand the lessons I learn from the secular world, I think they are not even open to hearing it. But I have to say that I now appreciate even more that I have seen both sides, and chosen the one that I have.

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