becoming more observant

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September 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm #6135


Just wondering how observant some of you are out there in interfaith marriages…my husband has been supportive (he was raised Christian) of our kids having a Jewish education, they have had Bar Mitzvah’s, etc. About 2 years ago I decided to start eating kosher again (I used to as I was raised Conservative/Orthodox) and I am wondering, given all the rules about intermarriage being such a no-no in traditional Judaism, is it silly or weird to consider being more observant, ie. such as possibly wearing a head covering, dressing more “tznius” etc…thoughts? I am conflicted but starting to feel like for me personally it is how I feel happiest.

September 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm #6136

Rabbi Alana Suskin

Dear Delilah,

It’s not crazy at all! First of all, you are Jewish and so are your children. Even if your husband never becomes Jewish, he is supportive, and as long as he is, with some work, you have a good chance of raising a Jewish family – and furthermore, or feeding your own Jewish neshama (soul).  I don’t know that I would start by covering your head, but  dressing more modestly is certainly not crazy: consider what it means to dress in  our society – often its about exposing your sexuality, or your wealth – both things that Judaism considers improper. There’s nothing wrong in demonstrating  both respect for yourself, and also humility: dress to show respect, but not flashily – these are values that both men and women should take on!
Other places to  take on mitzvot – a primary one might be observance of shabbat:  demonstrate that once we week, we recognize that there is One who has ultimate control (and that One is not us) by not spending money, or cooking ( do your cooking the day before), refraining from driving, going to shul with your family. There are lots of potential mitzvot that you could take on, but if I were you I would begin with these. If you have any questions, feel free to email.

September 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm #6137

Andi L.

I used to worry that if I violated what other Jews considered to be major laws, then I shouldn’t bother practicing any of them. Then I decided to think of observing the mitzvot as an exercise in mindfulness that is built one step at a time rather than in an full leap into adherence to a total structure.  I grew up in an interfaith family in a rural area.  It wasn’t until high school and college that I began to be involved in a Jewish community and have any kind of Jewish practice.  I’m still living in a rural area. I’m married to a proudly atheistic and nonpracticing Jew (who has two Jewish parents).  I had an adult bat mitzvah at the age of 31. At that point, I decided that I wanted to be more observant even though there are aspects of my life (and personal beliefs) that prevent me from being Orthodox or totally in-line with Jewish law.   Even though there may be people who would say that these places where I fall short nullify my efforts, I feel as though my life is immeasurably enriched by the aspects of increased observance that I’ve taken on.  Even though my husband has no desire to take them on himself, he respects and appreciates my efforts as an expression of who I truly am.  

September 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm #6138


Absolutely not crazy.

I wondered that myself, if i was being a hypocrite.  I was told my Rabbis and Rebbetzins alike that i wasn’t.  That its all worth it.  DO what feels right spiritually for you.

Put it this way, i know many women who light Shabbat candles but drive on Shabbat, eat not kosher etc.  Does that make their mitzvah any less?  No.  It is still a mitzvah they are performing.  What they choose to do later is their choice. 

Or how about when people keep kosher at home but not out? 

THere are so many variations on the theme, being married to a non Jew isn’t somehow a bigger sin.  In fact, i believe in the Torah the punishment for breaking Shabbat is much more severe (in this world). 

Also, the not marrying out (and i’ll be getting flack for this one) is a Rabbinical extension of the commandment.  The Torah says not to marry certain groups.  Eventually this was extended to anyone not Jewish but the Rabbis. 

But i digress.

Please enjoy Shabbat, enjoy Tsnius, enjoy kosher food…let it fill your soul! 

September 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm #6140


You guys, I really appreciate your thoughtful responses. Yeah and the head covering thing I was offering by way of example; I seriously doubt I would go there…
But, I agree Andi L, the way I was raised, kind of an all or nothing philosophy, if you violated what really observant jews thought were important laws, why do anything at all? I do realize that many of the “laws” are not Torah rules, but in fact extensions based on later interpretations.  It’s so complicated isn’t it!
I started thinking about this dressing style for a while, because I realized at some point that there was a way that I felt most comfortable with myself, and that is basically the look with the long skirt and the layered shirts. I guess you can get away with dressing like this all the time without looking like you’re trying to make some sort of public religious statement…although again, as you say does it really matter, who makes the rules anyway about so much of this.
I should add that my kids are now teenagers, and have both had Bar Mitzvahs, both gone to Jewish overnight camps, and my older son got his Reform synagogue confirmation in Grade 10, as well as continuing an evening optional course for highschool students. I am really proud that I have passed on this identity to my kids, no matter who they marry in the end, my goal was for them to “feel Jewish” and I think I have done that. I can always do better though…(Shabbat is an example)

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