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How do I deal with my secular and uninterested parent?


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Rabbi Shlomo Chein: Welcome. I'll be with you in a moment...what's on your mind?

Sarah: well, my dad is Jewish and my mother isn't, not a big rare thing

Sarah: and I am in the process of converting

Sarah: and it's hard to deal with my dad, who just...well, he just seems so disinterested

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: He seems disinterested in Judaism?

Sarah: yes, he is totally disinterested

Sarah: and that's fine, this isn't for him, but I want him to at least...well, I don't want to feel like I'm pushing him farther away or like I'm making him feel uncomfortable with his own Jewishness

Sarah: like, I had my parents over for Shabbat last week and we ate and then I wanted to say the Grace After Meals

Sarah: and my father went and sat on the sofa and took a nap!

Sarah: there's nothing I can do to make him interested, I think, but I at least want him to acknowledge that he is a part of the reason that this is important to me - I mean they raised me doing Jewish things, actually

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: I could only imagine how difficult this must be for you

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: Parents are a funny thing - they learn a lot from their children but they don't like to feel like their children's students

Sarah: exactly

Sarah: I don't want to feel like that either

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: So don't try to teach him

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: Don't try to make him recongnize or acknowledge anything

Sarah: and when he's around and I am doing things, if he wants to ignore it, just let him do that? (that's what I've been doing)

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: Just be yourself, on your own, and with regard to Jewish issues make believe he is not there. With time he will come around

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: totally ignore it... ignore his remarks and comments as well

Sarah: that's actually really good advice

Sarah sorry that sounds like I didn't expect it!

Sarah: but I am just impressed

Sarah: because no one else has offered this advice

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: some times we need to take the butterfly measure: if you chase it it flies away, but if you ignore it, it lands on your shoulder

Sarah: you're right. and if he never lands, at least I know I wasn't something that kept him away

Sarah: which is something that has been totally bothering me

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: when we really try to influence our parents, a lot of friction is caused and we don't gain much. But when we just do our own thing, they NOTICE, and with time it grows on them and they want to partake as well

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: you make a very good point with that last statement

Sarah: And sometimes, if you don't mind my saying so

Sarah: I get embarrassed to do things in front of him because I'm afraid that I don't know very much and that I will do them wrong

Sarah: like whatever, praying and stuff

Sarah: so I ask him how to do it first, but this goes very badly because he doesn't want to be involved in the teaching process, which is fine - it sounds like I just need to get over being embarrassed

Sarah: it's so weird - before I wanted to be Jewish, there was never any problem with the information - he would tell me whatever I wanted to know

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: that will be another benefit or pretending he is not there

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: he won't be there to teach you (which is he is not doing right now anyway), but he also won't be there (in your mind) to ridicule you

Sarah: it's almost like he is not wanting to share it! it makes me feel very odd.

Sarah: that is true

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: He probably doesn't know how to react to this huge transformation of yours

Sarah: maybe that's's not so huge, really. I

Sarah: well, this is very helpful. Thank you so much.

Rabbi Shlomo Chein: my pleasure

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.


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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.