Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What did Becoming an Observant Jew Really Mean to Me?

Obviously, my spiritual level has changed and I am much more aware of Hashem and His goodness.  Many times I have received His help in rough situations.  It would take me hours to tell you all the miraculous occurrences that I have experienced; but, I rather would like to concentrate on some specific areas of my life.


The greatest and most enjoyable improvement was in our family life.  Before we became observant, my wife, two children and I would sit and watch television together but never realized that we were four people in different worlds and miles apart.  We didn’t talk to each other or share life together.  We only went through motions and pretended to know one another.  Suddenly, when we began observing the Sabbath, there was no television and fewer distractions.  We sat around the dinner table and actually started to talk to each other.  We shared Torah issues that we had learned and found ourselves teaching each other.  We sang, we laughed and, best of all, we discovered how much we love each other.  To this day my wife and I couldn’t be closer with our children but to really talk about pure happiness is grandchildren.  Even though we only had two children, we now have 14 grandchildren.  The best part is that our children and grandchildren are very good people.  They are beautiful, intelligent (bi-lingual), totally respectful and very pleasant to be with (this is an unbiased opinion).  They don’t fight, they don’t argue and they always help each other.  This type of behavior isn’t limited to my family.  Children that I have met in many observant Jewish communities are the absolute best in the world.  The expressions:  “kids will be kids” and “teenagers will be teenagers” are meaningless to me since they are usually excuses for misbehaving. 


My wife and I grew up in secular communities.  We attended regular public schools.  I went through a military career, living in 5 states and two countries. We have been observant for about 20 years which means we have extensive experience with both worlds – secular and observant.  So, why would so many of the problems that we experienced in secular communities not be prevalent in a observant community?  The city we live in of about 45,000 people is 100% observant.  The Mayor is a Rabbi.  His staff consists completely of Rabbis or observant women.  The major industry is studying Torah.  There are about 150 places to pray and study Torah.  I personally live about a four minute walk to 12 places of worship.  It goes past 20 if my walk is increased to 10 minutes. Television is not allowed and children are not to have computers.  There are many computers in this city but they are used mostly for business and by retired people like me who keep up with the world using the web.  My son who uses the computer for business has a kosher web service.  All filth is blocked by the service; meaning, that if his children see the screen, it will not have improper content.  The children are exited about learning and they actually use books.  Most of all, they are happy children.


You may think that this seems archaic; but, let us look at the results of such a pristine society.  We have no police force in this city.  Stores often leave merchandise outside over night or receive deliveries overnight to be taken in at opening time.  There is no theft.  There are times that people need items that are left outside the store, they are permitted to take what they want since the owner knows that they will return to pay for it when the store opens.  All grocery stores and supermarkets only carry kosher products – that makes shopping much easier.  The bus service within the city and those buses that travel to other cities have separate seating.  Women sit in the back because they do not want to be looked at by men.  Am I saying that even observant men can’t control their emotions?  It so happens we are also human and we appreciate not being able to look at women on the bus or during prayer.  This leads to an interesting situation since women enter the bus by the center door; they scan their own card to pay for the ride.  There is a separate machine at the center door and it is completely on the honor system even for children who use that door.  I remember a situation recently where my son took a taxi home and realized he didn’t have money on him.  The cab driver said “no problem, I will stop by tomorrow and you can pay me.”  This city has no drug problems, no teen pregnancy (dating starts when we are ready to get married), a very low divorce rate; gossip isn’t allowed or any other prohibition in the Torah.  Even music is completely in praise of Hashem and is very popular.  Lots of music can be heard and on special occasions I’ve seen dancing in the streets (the men of course since men even shouldn’t watch women dancing).  24/7 is serving Hashem.  These are the happiest people on Earth.  Very honest, very generous, people always trying to help others, very good parents to their children and, of course, very good grandparents to their grandchildren, is the norm in my neighborhood.   All the negative stereotypes that we have heard about Jewish people are non-existent.  Jew hatred doesn’t exist.  Even when secular Jews or non-Jews visit, I have noticed such an atmosphere of respect and even emulation since the people are so friendly and lovable.  The only disagreement I have had with neighbors is when they try to pay me for thing and I don’t want the money.  The reverse has happened many times that someone does something for me or my family or gives us something, even at great expense, and they won’t take any money in payment.  Niceness between people should be my worst problem in life.


When we live in the states, we also lived in a city that was about 60,000 people with about 40,000 being observant.  Any crime that occurred came from outside the community and it was obvious.  I used to invite guests to my house, especially on Shabbos, to share the observant experience.  Very often it was a secular Jew or secular Jewish family that we wanted to teach about Hashem and His ways – let them experience the true joy of Shabbos.  I constantly got comments such as: “Your neighbors are such nice people,” or “Jews aren’t this way where I live.”  Any time I had a guest, there would always be a neighbor trying to steal my guest or guests for a meal.  I always got comments such as “I can’t believe that total strangers want to feed me and my family and treat us like we are their family.”  It actually is enjoyable since I, myself have stolen guests (that’s a secret so make sure you tell everyone).  The most telling comment was when we went for prayer service on a Saturday morning.  There were always young children there who were praying.  The service would last about 2 ½ hours.  My guest would notice how intense these you children would be praying to Hashem and would comment.  “Adults could put on airs, but the children don’t lie – these are well adjusted children that really want to serve Hashem.”  When it came to doing outreach work and helping people, my neighbors and especially the children (especially my children) were my best assets I had.


One incident that I want to relate involves a situation where two families were living in one house.  It was very crowded and did not afford the individual families privacy.  The observant Jewish community wanted to help and made a city wide collection.  They raised enough money to buy a separate home for one of the families.  There is no better way of serving Hashem than helping others and that was one of the most inspiring acts I have ever witnessed.

When someone tells me about an observant individual who was a crook, I explain that the individual they are talking about had a secular moment.  Observant crook is an oxymoron; you can’t do the commandments and violate them in the same breath.  I can’t put on a stethoscope and walk into a hospital and call myself a doctor.  Likewise, I can’t call myself an observant Jew and not follow the commandments of the Torah.


We are products of our environment.  If we grow up surrounded by goodness and happiness, than that is what we become.  If we are surrounded by evil; well, you get the point.  Jewish stereotypes usually come from people who never really met an observant Jew.  A non-observant Jew can have the same bad habits as a non-observant gentile, but if the one seeing the individual with bad habits knows that he or she is Jewish, it becomes an “all Jews are that way” scenario.  


Someday, I hope to invite each and every one of you to my house (don’t tell my wife I said that).  Seeing is believing (unless it is something reported in the news).  This will sound strange; but, I don’t want you to believe a word that I am saying.  If you ever get the chance to go to an observant Jewish community and meet the people, I can give you an “I told you so.”  That experience will be worth a thousand of my words.


  1. i am very happy for you and your family. may the whole world live like this soon. as a noahide, with two noahide sons, a hindu husband and living in a muslim country, i am trying my best to accomplish something like what you are doing, but it still seems a distant dream.

    1. The good news is that Hashem loves all the righteous of the world. Noahides who observe the seven commandments and lead a life of loving and serving Hashem will have it all in the near future. When the redemption comes, the wicked will be gone and the righteous will live the same way that I have described my home. I remember seeing years ago that all of Israel will be renamed as Jerusalem and all the land of the world will be the holy land. Life will be wonderful for all, Jew and non-Jew.

  2. My friend and I want to create a homey bed and breakfast type place in Israel where all the food is yummy, wholesome, grown in the holy land and infused with warmth, holiness and love. A place to do kiruv and host Lone Soldiers for Shabbat. We are both in US, I am married and she is about to be married in June. The place you live sounds like like heaven ;-)

  3. I'm making aliyah this summer. Please tell me what city or neighborhood do you live? It sounds so heaven on earth space.

    1. Please send me your name and some details by Email -- you are anonymous to me now. absolutetruth613@gmail.com